Friday, December 10, 2010


Professor speaks on concussions at Mayo Clinic

By Jake Schild

News Editor

A Saint Mary’s University psychology professor impressed many neurological doctors and scientists with a speech at the Mayo Clinic proposing a new way to better diagnose and learn more about cognitive impairments caused by concussions.

Professor Jeff Amundson’s presentation on the “Eyeblink Conditioning Paradigm,” showcased a new way to figure out what kind of effects concussions can have on high-contact sports athletes. It works very much like Pavlov’s experiment with the dog and salivation.

Mark R. Lovell, an internationally renowned sports concussion expert, and Kevin Guskiewicz, who works at The University of North Carolina injury prevention research center, both were “impressed,” and “interested” in Amundson’s presentation, Amundson said.

Amundson proposed that if someone who has had a concussion hears a constant tone and then waits for a puff of air to hit his or her eye, that person will not blink consistently at the same time as someone who has not suffered a concussion would. Much like how Pavlov’s dog will salivate whenever he hears the bell, someone without previous concussions will always blink when they feel the puff of air.

Using this method of diagnosis, Amundson feels doctors will have a much easier time figuring out whether or not athletes who have suffered concussions have developed long-term cognitive impairments.

One of those cognitive deficits, for example, is a problem with the hippocampus, a part of the brain that deals with long-term memory and learning skills. According to Amundson, the EBC Paradigm would also help doctors to find symptoms of brain atrophy, something seen in athletes after several concussions.

According to Amundson, one of the biggest tips he would give high-contact sport athletes is to educate themselves about the injuries they may face.

“Educate yourself about what concussions are so that you understand the possible symptoms.” According to Amundson, some of these symptoms can be subtle and not picked up on right away. They include, but are not limited to, confusion, headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea or fatigue.

Amundson also said he advises athletes to “appreciate the skill of the game rather than the violence.

Lastly, Amundson wants these athletes to “realize that they are establishing the future culture of the game.”

*Editor’s note: Professor Amundson resigned from his teaching position at SMU over Thanksgiving break. Please see story below for more details.

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