December 24, 2008
ABC 7 (KGO) News
Carolyn Johnson

A follow-up on a story we brought you last December about a young brain injured man who made a remarkable recovery. It’s a comeback his father attributes in part to San Francisco based Posit Science and its brain fitness program.

A family from Pinole saw that story, and set out to see if the same technology could help their brain injured son.

“I looked at the doctor who looked at the cat scan and I just said, can you save his life?” said Ryan’s father Doug Reitmeyer.

“We didn’t know if he was going to live or not,” said Chris’ mother Diane Uithoven.

Two parents, two sons — two different stories with the same grim outcome: traumatic brain injury.

Ryan Reitmeyer nearly died in a boating accident and Chris Uithoven lost control of his car. In an instant, their lives changed forever.

“He was a vegetable, he was non-responsive, they gave up on him. They wanted to send him off to a sub-acute facility and of course we weren’t having it,” said Uithoven.

“I had to learn how to pick up a spoon and a fork and feed myself and swallow,” said Chris Uithoven.

It’s been seven years since Chris’ crash, and while he’s made great strides, problems with his short-term memory persist.

Ryan had similar memory problems, but his father was convinced his son’s brain could be re-wired with the right tools.

“I had in my mind that we would go thru the process of seeking out the top researchers in the world, look at the technology and the tools available and see if we couldn’t’ help him get better,” said Reitmeyer.

“Historically we’d done a controlled trial with people with stroke and we’d seen very positive benefits, so we knew that it would likely be beneficial to this young man,” said Dr. Merzenich.

Dr. Merzenich is a renowned professor of neuroscience at UCSF and founder of Posit Science.

In clinical trials, Posit’s brain fitness program has been shown to improve memory and processing speed in older adults. Ryan also showed great improvement.

“He actually went from having a very impaired ability, to respond to information in fast time, to having a much more normal ability and this is consistent with him sampling information as a listener, much more completely and in much higher fidelity,” said Dr. Merzenich.

“So ultimately, from baseline to day 50, what changes did you see?” asked ABC7’s Carolyn Johnson.

“It was incredible, he went from no memory to having a substantial memory,” said Reitmeyer.

Chris’s mom saw our story and tracked down the Reitmeyers in search of strategies to help her son.

“I’ve learned so much just in such a short period of time just based on the few minutes in that broadcast,” said Diane Uithoven.

And after several months of emailing and phone calls, the Reitmeyers met the Uithovens and brought a copy of Posit’s brain fitness program for Chris. The same program played a key role in Ryan’s recovery.

“That was a very significant start to his recovery, because without memory, everything else follows. You can’t learn anything unless you can memorize it,” said Reitmeyer.

For Ryan, the exercises are still part of his recovery, and the improvements in his speech and memory are evident.

“I can speak about anything and I can do it clearly on the dot, and I’m very clear about what I’m saying, that’s the difference,” said Ryan Reitmeyer.

Chris is eager to give it a try.

“I’ve already upset all of their predictions so my goal is to keep on going,” he said.

Posit is able to track Chris’ progress with the brain fitness program. He’s shown a 43 percent improvement since starting. Since meeting the Reitmeyers, the Uithovens have learned about other technologies to help their son.