Re-training the Brain with Dynavision - Genesis Health System

Re-training the Brain with Dynavision

Returning to independence with Genesis LIFT program

When Roger Whitney began the Genesis LIFT program, he was recovering from a head injury and couldn't walk without staggering because of double vision and dizziness.

Roger Whitney, who suffered a severe concussion earlier this year, works to improve his vision, hand-eye coordination, speed, attention and focus using Dynavision. He is assisted by Genesis occupational therapist Sue Clemens.

Roger Whitney, who suffered a severe concussion earlier
this year, works to improve his vision, hand-eye
coordination, speed, attention and focus using Dynavision.
He is assisted by Genesis occupational therapist Sue

He experienced debilitating migraines.  He had difficulty moving his head to look around; whenever he did, the room seemed to swirl. Light triggered his headaches, so he wore his sunglasses indoors and often had to sit in the dark.

He came to the Genesis LIFT Program for help. LIFT, or Learning Independence for Tomorrow, is an outpatient program for brain injury rehabilitation.

“I had severe headaches, anxiety, nausea…things were always spinning,” Whitney of Davenport says. “If I was sitting and lay back too fast, the room would spin and I'd feel like I had to reach out and grab hold of something.”

It all began last New Year's Eve, when he slipped on the ice while climbing into an 18-wheeler truck while at his job. He was knocked out for a while, lying on his back in dangerously cold temperatures in a deserted parking lot. Fading in and out of consciousness, he hit redial on his phone and alerted a dispatcher who was able to find him help nearby.

Whitney suffered a severe concussion that, 10 months later, still gives him occasional migraines and vertigo. He has made great strides, however, and is driving his personal car again with the help of physical and occupational therapies and a unique technology at Genesis called Dynavision.

On The Mend

On a recent day during occupational therapy, Roger Whitney stands in front of Dynavision, a light-training reaction device that looks more like a large video game than a therapy tool.

Dynavision has multiple buttons on a large board that can light up in different quadrants. One setting will flash numbers or letters in the center of the board for participants to call out at the same time other buttons flash for them to press. This exercise helps improve hand-eye coordination, reaction time, peripheral vision and visual awareness.

Originally developed to improve the visual motor skills of athletes competing in sports like hockey, basketball, baseball, football and tennis, Dynavision programs have been adapted to provide the same training benefits to people whose visual and motor function has been compromised by neurological injuries or diseases.

Dynavision can help patients like Whitney improve hand-eye coordination; improve reaction times; and, increase the speed, accuracy and efficiency with which they are able to absorb visual information. It has been used successfully for people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, traumatic brain injuries and concussions -- to name a few.

“When he first came to the LIFT program orientation, Roger was a totally different person than the one you see today. He was in a wheelchair; his head was down; he wore sunglasses; and, he couldn't handle any movement without becoming severely dizzy and nauseous,” says occupational therapist Sue Clemens.

She recalls his first few weeks of therapy had to be conducted in a quiet room, with low lighting. He couldn't focus  for very long or complete some of the initial testing because of his visual issues.

“If Roger would get up from a chair and stretch, he would almost fall over,” Clemens says. “When he walked, his steps were tentative in terms of his balance. We couldn't have him 'look here, look there' without him swooning. He's still getting physical therapy for the vertigo, but it has improved tremendously.

“Functionally, he is now able to handle enough movement to go back to driving his personal car.”

Dynavision’s computer tracks patients' results so their progress can be followed. “I think of it like a video game, where the faster you go, the more points you get,” Whitney says. “Once you get to a certain level, you get to advance to the next. I try to go as fast as I can and hit as many flashing light buttons as I can to get a higher score.”

Dynavision is a great therapy tool for his vertigo because he has to move his head, depending on where the lights flash. It helps vision, processing, speed, attention and focus, and his physical and mental reaction times, Clemens says.

“When you're driving, you're always multi-tasking,” Clemens says. “You use your central vision and your peripheral vision. You have to focus on who's in front of you, who is passing you or if, for example, there's a ball coming out into the street. Dynavision has been very instrumental in getting Roger back driving his personal car again.”

In his current condition, advancing from driving a car with four wheels to a semitractor trailer truck with 18 wheels is an insurmountable challenge, Whitney says. “For now, I'm just glad to be driving my own car again.”

For more information about Dynavision or the Genesis LIFT program at 2535 Maplecrest Road, Bettendorf, call (563) 421-3460.

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