I carried out my secondment from the 18th February to the 23nd March at the Centre for Advanced Rehabilitation Technology at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The secondment was an incredible opportunity to spend an extended period of time in a new laboratory environment, working with Desiderio Cano, Meir Plotnik and his team. I would first like to thank them for making me feel welcome and part of the team from the first day. The secondment provided me with a greater understanding of the world of research at an international level, observing and assimilating to a new team dynamic and novel research methods. I attended team laboratory meetings and finished the secondment by giving a seminar to the department, speaking about my research and the principles of Motek for the uses of advanced technology in rehabilitation.
During my stay in Tel Aviv I had the opportunity to work with world leading advanced technology used in rehabilitation. The department has access to a huge range of advanced rehabilitation technologies; from motion platforms, to treadmills, assistive walking devices and gait assessment labs. Virtual reality plays a major role in the department and the highlight is the Computerised Assisted Rehab Environment (CAREN) system features a force sensing treadmill on a moving platform with 6 degrees of freedom. This is surrounded immersive virtual reality dome that allows for manipulation of the perception of the environment and the effect this can have on our motor actions.
I was able to observe many on-going research experiments. From innovative investigations into subconscious perception in healthy adults to effects of perturbations in older adults and virtual reality in Parkinson patients. In this I was exposed to many new research paradigms and uses of biological data to quantify human control of movement. I was able to assist in some processing of data, sharing some of my knowledge of Motek products and processing motion capture trials. In order to fully understand Desiderio’s research, I participated in his most recent study. Investigating the effects of visual and physical perturbations on walking. This was both fun and interesting to see first-hand the effects of these perturbations can have on movement.
Sheba medical centre is the largest hospital in Israel and one of the things I was very interested to see was the treatment of patients at the rehabilitation clinic. The rehabilitation department had a great sense of community, focusing not only on motor restoration and development but also on social aspects that are a key motivator in rehabilitation. I was able to speak with physiotherapists and observe the treatment of patients in the department. Speaking with therapists I understood more about what works with VR based rehabilitation, and what they perceive draw backs to be. This is essential information I can take forward to develop future applications for VR based rehabilitation games. I also had the opportunity to visit the Alyn children’s hospital in Jerusalem and meet some of the people involved in running it. As a researcher in the field of cerebral palsy rehabilitation this was a fantastic opportunity to see new techniques and practises in paediatric rehabilitation. The fusion of many different aspects of care, education and treatment was a great insight. The innovation space a refreshing idea, finding solutions for patient specific problems, combining entrepreneurship, technology and volunteers. This is something I will absolutely take with me going forward.
My stay in Israel coincided with the Stability and Plasticity of Neural Circuits conference, from Sagol School of Neuroscience. It was an excellent opportunity to attend the University of Tel Aviv and hear many fascinating and high profile speakers, discussing the principles of motor control and learning. My secondment also occurred at the same time as the 4th PACE network meeting. I was able to lend a small role in assisting with some of the organisation of this, which was a great opportunity to develop contact with leaders in the field of rehabilitation. The PACE meeting featured an outstanding day of talks in field and stimulating student debates. Further to this a beautiful hike in the dead sea and tour of Jerusalem was organised, not to mention the social activities.
Lastly I would say the secondment allowed me the opportunity to experience life in a new and diverse part of the world I may not have otherwise been able to. The month long stay allowed me to really get involved and make the most of my time in Tel Aviv, understanding more of the culture and daily life in Israel. Outside of all the many lessons in rehabilitation and research I have learned, the ability to live in a different culture is really what the Marie Curie ITN is all about and helps us to grow both as researchers and people, developing international connections and networks across the ever shrinking world.
Walking on the CAREN system, with virtual reality environment testing the effects of visual and physical perturbations.