Machine Helps Military Veterans Recover From Brain Injuries

A machine designed to give athletes an edge is helping military veterans battle back from brain injuries.

The Dynavision 2, or D-2, looks like a game, but it's an important part of therapy at the Shepherd Center.

When Jonathan Henderson first took on the D-2 back in May, he thought it looked silly.

"Didn't believe this little contraption could actually help me do anything," said Henderson.

But, Jonathan got faster and occupational therapist Windy Thomas made the game harder. She told him to call out numbers on the screen, or name an NFL team each time he hit a button.

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The D-2 is designed to train the brain. It helps athletes think faster, react more quickly and sharpen their hand-eye coordination.

Shepherd Center is using it for a new client: military veterans like Jonathan, who is recovering from a brain injury.

"He had headaches. When we first started, it was hard visually for him," said Thomas.

Henderson, a former staff sergeant, has known he wanted to be a United States Marine since he was 8. He served for 17 years. But while the Gastonia, N.C. father of two was deployed with Operation Enduring Freedom, he hit his head in a humvee accident, and began to struggle.
"When I first got back, it took about two years before they figured out what was wrong with me," said Henderson.

A psychologist diagnosed Jonathan with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

"I was really like ‘What's a TBI?'  I had no idea what that meant," said Henderson.

But he had a lot of the symptoms: daily migraines, short-term memory loss.  He couldn't multi-task, or focus.

"I felt dazed all the time.  I didn't think like I used to.  Stuff that I used to could remember, I found myself having a hard time recalling information, stumbling on words," said Henderson.

A friend with The Wounded Warrior Project told Henderson about Shepherd Center's SHARE Initiative. In four years, it's helped about 200 former and current service members with brain or spinal cord injuries.
"And so we felt like this was a great tool for him to multi-task again," said Thomas. "You're looking and you're touching at the same time, so you're forming those pathways again."

Sessions last just 15-20 minutes,
Jonathan hit about 55 buttons a minute back in May. Now he's hitting about 75.

"It may look silly, but use it and you'll see a lot of differences in yourself," he said.

On his last day with the SHARE Initiative, Jonathan Henderson is a believer, not just in the machine, but in himself again.

"My self confidence is back the way, close to back the way it used to be, and it's getting better," said Henderson.

The D-2 is also being used to treat stroke patients, and people who've suffered a concussion. There's some evidence it may help people with attention deficit disorder.

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