In a white room at HealthSouth Chattanooga, the Dynavision D2 looks out of place, like a prop from the set of "2001: A Space Odyssey."
The McCallie Avenue rehabilitation hospital's newest therapy training tool is a study in early science-fiction aesthetic: a black square, four feet by four feet, studded with 64 white switches radiating out like spokes around a computer screen.
It is also one of the facility's most versatile pieces of equipment to gauge a patient's visual-motor skills, said occupational therapist Ashley Wright.
The D2 has a number of adjustable programs that require patients to randomly press glowing switches.
The D2 may appear to be a more advanced version of the arcade game Whac-A-Mole, but by tracking reaction speed and accuracy within specific quadrants, therapists can use it to evaluate a range of conditions.
According to HealthSouth director of marketing Stephanie Ott, the hospital acquired the device on Feb. 8 for about $14,000. All of the facility's therapists were trained in its use, and about a quarter of the patients spend time with it as part of their treatment.
Over the course of a typical 10- to 15-minute session, Wright said, therapists can help evaluate everything from reduced visual acuity in post-stroke patients to elderly patients' hand-eye coordination, balance, range of motion and flexibility.
The D2 also has been used with patients who have undergone amputations, use wheelchairs or have conditions such as dementia, attention deficit disorder and concussions, Wright said.
While it is not used by HealthSouth in diagnosing patients, therapists said the D2 provides data that reinforce their observations and helps them formulate retraining to helps patients adjust.
For example, by verifying that a patient reacts slowly or inaccurately to switches in their right peripheral vision, therapists can hone in on why patients make mistakes while driving, miss light switches on one side or write off the edge of paper.
The D2 is based on the Eyespan, a product originally developed in the mid 1980s to improve athlete's vision and motor skills.
According to the Dynavision website, company founder Phil Jones enjoyed working with the device so much during his time in the Canadian Football League that he bought the rights to the machine. After four years in development, he debuted the D2's predecessor, the Dynavision 2000.
Mary Warren is an associate professor of occupational therapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham specializing in low-vision rehabilitation. She realized the device's potential to help post-stroke patients or those with traumatic brain injuries and recommended its use as a therapeutic device, said Wright, who is enrolled in online graduate courses at UAB under Warren.
The device is used in more than 600 hospitals around the country, including with military veterans and is still used in training athletes, according to the Dynavision website.
A game changer
Ashley Wells, Wright's classmate and fellow occupational therapist at HealthSouth, said the D2's flexibility has allowed her to explore new options in treatment.
She often will seat patients using the D2 on an exercise ball to test their balance or challenge their response to sudden changes to center of gravity by having them stand on a biomechanical ankle platform system, a flat disc with a round bottom.
Wright said using the device has helped her to vary her treatment options to keep patients interested in their rehabilitation.
"I'm pushing the limits of what the patient can handle so it's not boring because it can get a little redundant," she said. "When it was discovered, it was like, 'Wow, this has been missing in rehab forever.' "
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...