The Biomechanics of Indirect Traumatic Optic Neuropathy Using a Computational Head Model With a Biofidelic Orbit

Yang Li, Eric Singman, Timothy McCulley, Chengwei Wu, Nitin Daphalapurkar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Indirect traumatic optic neuropathy (ITON) is an injury to the optic nerve due to head trauma and usually results in partial or complete loss of vision. In order to advance a mechanistic understanding of the injury to the optic nerve, we developed a head model with a biofidelic orbit. Head impacts were simulated under controlled conditions of impactor velocity. The locations of impact were varied to include frontal, lateral, and posterior parts of the head. Impact studies were conducted using two types of impactors that differed in their rigidity relative to the skull. The simulated results from both the impactors suggest that forehead impacts are those to which the optic nerve is most vulnerable. The mode and location of optic nerve injury is significantly different between the impacting conditions. Simulated results using a relatively rigid impactor (metal cylinder) suggest optic nerve injury initiates at the location of the intracranial end of the optic canal and spreads to the regions of the optic nerve in the vicinity of the optic canal. In this case, the deformation of the skull at the optic canal, resulting in deformation of the optic nerve, was the primary mode of injury. On the other hand, simulated results using a relatively compliant impactor (soccer ball) suggest that primary mode of injury comes from the brain tugging upon the optic nerve (from where it is affixed to the intracranial end of the optic canal) during coup countercoup motion of the brain. This study represents the first published effort to employ a biofidelic simulation of the full length of the optic nerve in which the orbit is integrated within the whole head.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number346
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - Apr 28 2020


  • biomechanics
  • brain injury
  • concussion
  • finite element methods
  • head trauma
  • optic nerve
  • optic neuropathy
  • vision loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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