At age nine, Jeremy Schack was involved in a serious accident and suffered a brain injury. “He was in ICU for three weeks, and then at Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation for four months,” his mother Catherine said. “It was an atypical injury to the cerebellum that did not impact his memory or intellect, but we didn’t know what the long-term outcome would be.”
While he was in ICU at Parkland Hospital, a representative for Dr. Sandra Chapman asked for permission to enroll him in their pediatric traumatic brain injury research study. This study enabled scientists to monitor the recovery of important cognitive, social, and emotional functioning abilities after a brain injury. Dr. Chapman and her team first saw Jeremy within a year of his accident and followed up with a cognitive assessment seven years later, when Jeremy was 16.
“The Center for BrainHealth was one of the first research centers to document later emerging deficits from a traumatic brain injury,” said Dr. Chapman. “Most studies only follow children with traumatic brain injury up to a year after their injury. We have been able to document a neurocognitive stall, or a halting or slowing in later stages of cognitive, social, and motor development beyond a year after brain injury, in pediatric patients like Jeremy.”
As Jeremy grew older and more independent, Catherine noticed that he sometimes had trouble focusing and setting goals. “While discussing his college grades with other family members, it suddenly occurred to me that this might be a long-term effect of the brain injury,” she said.
At age 25, Jeremy returned to the Center for BrainHealth for a summer-intensive session of SMART (Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training). This cutting-edge cognitive intervention is designed to teach individuals how to more effectively assimilate, manage, and utilize information. These skills are crucial for both academic success and strengthening overall brain function in daily life.
“From the get-go, Jeremy was intrinsically motivated and wanted to better navigate the complexities of adult life,” said Dr. Lori Cook, the Center for BrainHealth neuroscientist who administered Jeremy’s SMART sessions. “What we have seen in Jeremy, as well as in other patients with traumatic brain injury, is that SMART often has a spillover effect to social abilities, thus truly transforming how someone handles everyday activities.”
“When he went back to school for the next semester, he was able to focus better, keep up with his classes, and do all that needs to be done as a college student,” said Catherine. “He got all A’s in his fall semester, even with the addition of another class.”
She continued, “Not only did the SMART program help Jeremy in his academic life, but his social skills have improved a lot as well. He is doing photography and web-casting for the UTA Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team, keeping up his grades, and doing very well.”