Design and Implementation of Simulations to Support Neurorehabilitation Intervention
In recognition of the importance of participation and empowerment in the training process (World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning), we aim to evaluate and treat people with neurological disabilities under conditions that elicit realistic responses. However, for reasons of convenience, cost and safety, it is often not feasible to provide truly life-like opportunities to perform in. Thus, we seek to gain access to tools and techniques that go beyond conventional approaches yet retain their feasibility and validity. The role of both physical and virtual simulation is thus increasingly important in the motor control literature, in particular related to skill assessment, development, and training. Techniques based on virtual reality (VR) simulations have aimed to provide this capability for the past 15 years. Virtual reality includes the use of interactive simulations created with computer hardware and software to present users with opportunities to engage in environments that appear and feel similar to real world objects and events. Users interact with displayed images, move and manipulate virtual objects, within the simulated environment thereby engendering a feeling of “presence” in the virtual world. VR enables objective and accurate measurement of behavior in challenging, ecologically-valid and safe environments, while controlling delivery of stimulus and maintaining standardization of measurement protocols. Although the evidence is not yet conclusive, numerous studies indicate the strong relationship between performance within virtual and real environments as well as transfer of skills learned via VR to those need in real-life settings. The aim of this presentation is to demonstrate how recently developed simulation technologies have extended the repertoire of virtual tools now available to researchers and clinicians.