2009 Fall Guest Editorial
Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation
Fall 2009, Volume 2, Issue 3
In this special issue of the Journal of CyberTherapy and Reha- bilitation, you will find several papers that were selected from the more than one hundred submissions received by the Scien- tific Committee for the International Symposium on Neurore- habilitation.
Seeing the need to strengthen the collaboration between tech- nical and health related disciplines, the International Sympo- sium on Neurorehabilitation: from Basics to Future was held in Valencia, Spain on October 15-16, 2009. The main purpose of the Symposium was to bring together engineers, researchers and health care professionals to share ideas and experiences with the aim of creating a “common language” that will help to increase the efficacy of the neurorehabilitation process and to improve the quality of life of patients. World-renowned re- searchers in cognitive and motor rehabilitation, virtual reality, telerehabilitation, brain-machine interfaces, patient assessment, behavioral science, neuroplasticity, neuroimaging, neurophar- macology and rehabilitation robotics updated participants on the current state of their respective research areas during the Symposium. Similarly, more than 350 delegates from around the world participated in this event and provided examples of their current work.
In the coming years, the incidence of diseases and afflictions with a neurological origin will increase to–what some have ven- tured to call–epidemic proportions. Among the main reasons be- hind this “coming epidemic” is the shift that the world’s population will experience, according to several forecasts, to- wards an increasingly older population as a result of improve- ments in medicine and standards of living. According to the United Nations, more than 20 percent of the world’s population will be over 60 years old by the year 2050, more than doubling the current size of this population segment. This shift towards an older population will not be limited to the developed world; most of the developing world will experience a similar popula- tion shift in the coming decades. Unfortunately, an aging popu- lation increases exponentially the risk of suffering from afflictions affecting the central nervous system, which could lead to a lower quality of life for these individuals, or even death. Among these afflictions one can find multiple sclerosis, Parkin- son’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, among many others. Recent advances in neurorehabilitation, the specialized and interdisciplinary treatment of individuals suffering from neu- rological afflictions, can prove to be extremely important to ameliorate the suffering experienced by these individuals and to help them to return to a normal life. At the same time, we are seeing the increasing importance of technology in our everyday lives. As a result, technology is also playing an im- portant role in the improvement of neurorehabilitation, and we feel that its importance will only increase over time. Ap- plying technology to the neurorehabilitation process can not only assist us in obtaining more precise diagnostics and in improving the flow of information between health care pro- fessionals but it can also help us to develop more effective and efficient rehabilitation-specific clinical pathways. Simi- larly, the increasing bandwidth capacity of our telecommuni- cation networks could bring hope to individuals that do not have access to rehabilitation facilities by making possible the implementation of telerehabilitation-based treatments. Fur- thermore, the increasing importance of assistive technology and orthetics also shows how technology can have a great im- pact on the quality of life of our patients long after the reha- bilitation process has finalized.
In this symposium, several sessions have been centered in virtual rehabilitation and related fields. Virtual Rehabilita- tion is a recent scientific and technological area that inves- tigates the use of interactive graphics technologies and telecommunications to provide rehabilitation and clinical services in a more effective and efficient way. It is a multi- disciplinary field that combines technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, bioelectronics, medical imaging, ambient intelligence, natural man-machine interfaces, all aimed at achieving better therapies for patients and more sustainable services health.
At this moment, we are experiencing the emergence of an infor- mation society increasingly based on the production and ex- change of information. New information and computer technologies (ICT’s) are having an impact in the field of rehabil- itation of motor and cognitive functions. Over the past twenty years this progress in technology has provided clinicians with new opportunities for evaluation and treatment of cognitive dis- orders, which were not available with traditional methods. Sev- eral tools have been created in order to evaluate and train the cognitive impairment that is associated with acquired or devel- opmental cerebral damage including memory, spatial knowledge representation and planning abilities and executive function.
With virtual rehabilitation we are developing engaging virtual worlds in which patients interact while rehabilitating, envi- ronments that are capable of recognizing the patient and pro- vide the necessary services even at home, miniaturized and low-cost tracking and monitoring systems used to enable pa- tients to continue rehabilitation at home thus saving costs to health services and improving both the quality of care, intel- ligent TV screens that recognize the patient’s movements and through virtual agents are leading him in the exercises, or robotic systems that assist the patient in their exercises in both the clinic and at home. In coming years, we will attend to a revolution in this field through the combined efforts of clini- cians and technology, which we intend to make closer ties in scientific events like the International Symposium on Neu- rorehabilitation. We hope that you enjoy these papers and that you will join us in the next edition of the International Sym- posium on Neurorehabilitation to be held in 2011.
Mariano Alcañiz, Ph.D.,
Director Institute LabHuman
and Javier Chirivella, Ph.D.,
Director Servicio Daño Cerebral/NISA