Scientific findings on the adaptive capacity of our nervous system, along with the use of emerging technologies and disciplines such as robotics, biomechanics or virtual reality are taking a big leap in the treatment of patients with injuries and neurological diseases. From this, and other issues, will be discussed during days 14 to 16 November in Toledo in the first International Conference on Neurorehabilitation (ICNR 2012).
The event, jointly organized by the National Research Council (CSIC) and the National Paraplegics Hospital managed by the government of Castilla-La Mancha, will be attended by experts from around the world in the fields of clinical rehabilitation, applied neurophysiology and neuro. The interview with one of the main organizers, the unit responsible for Biomechanics and Technical Aids Dr. Angel Gil HNP, serves as a vanguard for the event and the importance of its contents.
What are the goals of the International Conference to be held Neurorehabilitationin Toledo for next November?
Create a common space where professionals and researchers involved in different clinical settings, technology and research related to the development of new devices and technologies for disability. Discuss our recent advances in robotics, virtual reality or new interfaces connecting the brain to communicate with the machine.
What leading scientists will attend this event in Toledo?
Researchers attend more national and international attention as the CSIC Bioengineering group, the head of which is Professor José Luis Pons. Researchers are also great, as Metin Akay, University of Houston, Grégoire Courtine Dietz Wolkan UCLA or Zurich, among other distinguished scientists.
How is living in the clinical setting of neurological impact of technology?
With great anticipation. These disciplines, relatively new, they fill a gap in the treatment neurorehabilitador and are bringing exciting developments within a short period of time.
Why is so promisingthe convergence of different disciplines for neurorehabilitation?
Precisely at this conference we want to emphasize how, against the old approach today need the knowledge from different disciplines to treat a problem. This is seen as a transverse process in which clinicians and experts in technology, such as engineering applied to neurorehabilitation, work together and add knowledge.
What stage is the research on the human nervous system connection with mechatronic systems to restore functional abilities?
They are many developments. In some areas there is still applicable and marketable solutions for the user, others do. Progress is being made in the world of interfaces for connecting a person with a machine by detecting nerve signals from the brain may or peripheral nerves. This technology is allowing us to improve rehabilitation techniques, hitherto inaccessible, neuroplasticity handling and use of orthotic devices and robotic functionality that compensate a person who has lost.
What can you offer to the world of neuro-robotics physical disability, specifically for people with spinal cord injury?
There are realities, such as robotic exoskeletons that by incorporating engine and functional electrical stimulation systems allow you to have some walking ability in people who could not walk far. There are also portable robotic devices that can be used to improve upper limb function and for example, devices controlled by the cerebral cortex, known as "brain computer interface", that are beginning to be used by people with spinal cord injury to improve their quality of life and reduce their dependence.
The National Paraplegics Hospital also is undertaking a research project for the development of exoskeletons
We are involved in a research project called HYPER-reaching, involving nine other prestigious research centers and where we are significantly advancing the development of hybrid technology exoskeletons. With this technology we try to restore gait in people who could not walk, achieving function in people with tetraplegia affected upper limb, and the admission of these brain control technologies for these devices.
For centuries scientists have dreamed of being able to look at the human brain and nervous system while performing various activities, for example, while one personto see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something. What make is allowing the development of new techniques, neurophysiology, neuroimaging ...?
At this conference realities are applied to the user, but to get to them before it was necessary to do preliminary work in terms of basic science and neuroscience. Applied neurophysiology techniques are very important to identify ways that allow us to connect the human body with machines. There are great strides to detect these elements, extremely small, allowing us to pick up signals from peripheral nerve or the cerebral cortex and then manage those devices. Neuroimaging is also essential when it comes to brain interface, functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques to see which brain areas are operated to perform a certain task, which is very valuable to the design of control devices.
Why the rise of Biomechanics in rehab? What added value is offering in recent times discipline in this area?
Biomechanics is a discipline of fundamental knowledge in the rehabilitation process of a person,in this case with nerve damage in her share professional knowledge with different backgrounds: doctors, engineers and rehabilitation specialists to get a higher profit. Biomechanics offers two added values: first to objectify the functional status of a patient, take a still reproducible, to know what their core deficits and then address them from the therapeutic point of view. This value added assessment developments and applications of robots and portable exoskeletons. Previously required biomechanical analysis of the function and provide information to the robot to compensate for lost function.
How to combine conventional therapies, physiotherapy style, with all these advances in the rehabilitation process?
These disciplines can in no case supplant the traditional disciplines and professionals. These complementary therapies that are available to rehabilitation equipment, as a fundamental tool to objectify the tasks. Practitioners will need to be familiar with this type of therapeutic options and should see them as an opportunity, not a threat, because they provide a new way to manage processes and rehabilitation services. Pongo eg Lokomat, one of the most popular robotic devices for human gait training. If beforefour people were needed to subject themselves to move the trunk and limbs, to reproduce the gesture of human walking, with this device, a single therapist can perform this task.
In conclusion What about the road from the cudgel, cane and wheelchair neuro neuro-robotics and we?
I come from the clinical world and have been seven years in this world of biomechanics, at this time I am seeing a tremendous explosion of new developments and contributions. It is difficult to say at what point the way we are, the fact is that progress is tremendous and the emergence of new solutions is produced at breakneck speed. We should be very optimistic with these technologies.