After eight years without answers, a father of five recovered from brain injury

Clark Elliott talks about his recovery and book with Hillary Howard and Shawn Anderson. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)

WASHINGTON — “At times, I couldn’t even name my five children in less than three or four minutes…I was about to lose my house, my job, custodianship of my children and probably become a ward of the state. But I got lucky.”

That was Clark Elliott’s life for eight years after he suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident in 1999.

The “luck” Elliott referred to was a search he did for “brain plasticity,” a decision that changed his life.

Brain plasticity uses retinal inputs to modify the brain. The idea is that with the right therapy, the good, healthy parts of the brain can take over the functions of the parts that have been damaged by trauma.

Doctors used visual puzzles to re-train Elliott’s brain. He was also given specially prescribed eye glasses designed to direct light to different parts of his brain.

“We woke up those parts in my brain lying in wait, so to speak, to take over for the damaged parts.”

Elliott, an artificial intelligence expert at DePaul University in Chicago, explained.

Within three weeks of beginning treatment, Elliott was 70 percent recovered. Within a year or two, he had fully recovered.

Elliott, who was told a full recovery was out of his grasp, has used his experience to advocate for brain plasticity treatment. Elliott says that while the treatment has a long history, it is a method that is not widely known.

He authored “Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole my Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get It Back,” a book about his treatment and recovery that he hopes will shed some light on the treatment that gave him his life back.

Elliott hopes to make a difference for others suffering from the “epidemic” of brain injuries.

“Between this time now…and the same time tomorrow, we’re going to have another 5,000 brain injuries in the United States alone.”

For more information about Elliott’s book and brain plasticity, visit his website.


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