For one aspiring cognitive scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, the prospect of treating veterans suffering from traumatic brain diseases is close to home for Morgan Luttrell, 40, who was deployed nine times to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Navy SEAL, and he has suffered brain trauma himself.

After 10 years of service, Luttrell is on a doctoral track at the university studying brain diseases, The Dallas Morning News reported. Luttrell was injured when he and his team were training on a Black Hawk helicopter in 2009. He fell from the chopper onto a combat support ship, breaking his back in six places and sustaining major damage to his spinal cord, leaving him in a body cast for about six months.

The Texas native also suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, which caused sharp headaches and dizziness for months, the newspaper reported.

Despite the injury, Luttrell deployed two more times before retiring in 2014 with a medical discharge attributed to spinal cord damage from the crash, yet has now gone on to change paths and study brain disease.

Luttrell signed up for a clinical trial at the University of Texas at Dallas School of Behavioural and Brain Sciences, which has worked with veterans for years. There, he underwent cognitive testing and received training on improving common problems associated with brain injuries.

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