Desiderio Cano Porras on secondment

Host Institution: The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Netherlands.

Host Team: The ESR in TNO (Alix de Dieuleveult) and her PACE Supervisors (Drs Anne-Marie Brouwer and Petra Siemonsma).

Dates of Stay: February 23 to March 4 (1st visit) and September 20 to October 9, 2018 (2nd visit).

Research topic: Multisensory Integration and Virtual Reality-based rehabilitation.

General Objective: to get training and experience from another organization focus on innovation for applied clinical and scientific research. I chose TNO because it accommodates into my Career Development Plan, which includes multidisciplinary, translational research with clinical impact.


Specific Objectives and Activities (1st visit):

  1. To contribute with research that makes part of the PhD projects of the ESR in TNO, by conducting pilot studies using a mobile application evaluating multisensory integration in healthy adults and clinical cohorts
  2. To engage into collaborative pilot testing projects of the mobile application with older adults and patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in Fysiotherapie Dekker Amstelveen
  3. To hold scientific discussions regarding systematic reviews conducted by both ESRs in Sheba and TNO, PACE supervisors and researchers from Fysiotherapy Dekker.


Specific Objectives and Activities (2nd visit):

  1. To acquire experience in the organization and execution of lectures and workshops
    1. Workshop “Use of virtual reality in neurorehabilitation” THIM Hogeschool voor Fysiotherapie, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
    2. Presentation of Systematic Review “The advantages of virtual reality in the rehabilitation of balance and gait” Motek, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    3. Lecture on “Gait variability in virtual reality” THIM Hogeschool voor Fysiotherapie, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
    4. Lecture on “Gait adaptation to conflictive visual flow in virtual environments” OZO Conferences, Policlinic, VU Medical Centrum


  1. To carry out networking activities with relevant academic, research and clinical centers relevant for my Career Development Plan
    1. Visit to the Center of Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Groningen, The Netherlands (Dr Claudine Lamoth)
    2. Visit to the Rehabilitation Research Center READE. Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Suzzane Romviel)
    3. Visit to the Sensorimotor Control group at the Vrije Universitait Amsterdam


  1. To learn more about health care and education in The Netherlands
    1. Joined classes of conventional rehabilitation on Stroke patients (teachers: Sanders Kerstens and Lennaert Eggink)


Main Results:

During my first visit, we used the mobile application and collected data from a group of 17 participants: three healthy young adults, nine healthy older adults and five PD patients. The figure below shows the effect of the illusory target motion task in the tested populations. The pilot studies contributed to improve the mobile set-up and to accommodate the parameters of the illusory task in patients with commonly elevated motor-cognitive interference such as PD.

desiderio secondment

Figure. Average direction error according to the background direction of motion (left or right) in the illusory target motion task. Error bars represent standard error of the mean between subjects. This figure shows data using a mobile application testing illusory direction of motion caused by moving background. The mobile application attempts to reproduce previous findings obtained by the Host team using projected screen [de Dieuleveult et al. Multisensory Research 31 (2018) 227–249] and expand the paradigm to clinical cohorts (e.g. patients with Parkinson’s disease).


The scientific discussion on systematic reviews contributed substantially to improve the quality of one of my PhD projects: a manuscript recently submitted and currently on the second stage of peer-review entitled “The advantages of virtual reality in the rehabilitation of balance and gait. A systematic review”.

During my second visit, I organized a 2-days workshop for HealthCare university students and lectures for organizations such as Motek and THIM. This outstanding experience allowed me to develop confidence and professional aspects highly relevant for young researchers such as pedagogical and related to interaction with students. In addition, by visiting several research centers, I was able to meet investigators with who I can potentially develop scientific collaborations.  Finally, by attending lectures and getting involved in conversations with teachers and students, I acquired knowledge and understanding on the academic system in The Netherlands and I will apply this knowledge in the next stages of my career.


Conclusion: The secondment in the Netherlands has been an exceptional experience in my career as young researcher.  It contributed to boost my professional preparation and the prospect of my career plan. In particular, I was able to develop activities promoting multicentric and multidisciplinary research focus on clinical applications. I have contributed to test and improve a mobile application developed by the host team in TNO that will serve in the study of multisensory integration in healthy adults and clinical cohorts. Additionally, I was able to give lectures related to my PhD research projects and that allowed me to have relevant feedback on methodological aspects and data analysis. Last, I visited academic, research and clinical centers, and a clinical-technology developing company. All of these types of institutions fit with my professional prospects to elaborate research projects in Colombia and South America, involving joint initiatives from Universities-Companies-Government using innovative technologies with clinical impact.


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