Neuro-Rehabilitation: an Essential Component of Neurological Care

In many clinical disorders (traumatic and non-traumatic) the acute care (emergency management and diagnostics)
and the subsequent therapy is complimented by rehabilitation treatment to fully exploit the potential of recovery, to
assure that medical outcomes are sustainable and that they eventually become significant for the patient’s daily life.
The same (even more so) is true in neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury
(SCI), where in about 50% of cases the acute care treatments are followed by neuro-rehabilitation programs. It is
the outcome after rehabilitation (e.g. independent living) that will eventually define the success of acute care. While
diagnostic and treatment algorithms in acute neurological disorders (stroke and SCI) are well embedded in the acute
care of medical centres and university hospitals have meaningful collaborations with related academic institutions
(preclinical and clinical research, e.g., neurobiology and engineering in neuro-imaging etc.) rehabilitation programs
are mostly disconnected – physically, academically, and emotionally – and lack the immediate interaction with the
acute care programs that they are finally commissioned to successfully complement.

Neuro-Rehabilitation & Neuroscience Network Zurich

In 2008 the Rehabilitation Initiative and Technology Platform Zurich (RITZ) was founded and integrated into the
Neuroscience Centre Zurich (ZNZ) to foster the interaction between preclinical, clinical and neuro-rehabilitation
engineering. Despite this, neurological acute care and rehabilitation programs in the clinical domain are still
fragmented and do not share common treatment strategies. The potential that lies in joining acute care and neuro-
rehabilitation for clinical and basic science is still yet to be exposed in Zurich. The same is true nationally and
internationally for almost all academic hospitals and universities. This fact constitutes a challenge and chance for
the University of Zurich to spearhead the medical area of neuro-rehabilitation to improve the medical care of
patients, to be at the forefront in an area of medicine where the translation of novel interventions is envisaged and
strong interactions between research (ETH Zurich) and commercial (industry) partners will be imperative in an
increasingly demanding area of medicine. Therefore, with support from RITZ and ZNZ the neuro-rehabilitation KFSP
will encompass clinical (neurology USZ, KISPI and Balgrist) and basic research partners (D-HEST ETH, UZH)
involved in neurological care and neuroscience with innovative research projects and interests in neuro-rehabilitation.

Improving Acute Care by Efficient Neuro-Rehabillitation

The research will be focused on linking acute care and neuro-rehabilitation to improve the outcome of disorders
affecting the central nervous system
. Projects will deal with different neurological conditions (stroke, spinal cord
injury, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s) thereby uncovering similarities and differences between
these disorders. Comparative and aligned approaches in patient stratification, rehabilitation interventions (duration,
intensity and reward in rehabilitation programs) and outcome assessments will reveal novel insights in the capacity
of the CNS to respond (increasing effectiveness of preserved neural networks or facilitation of neural plasticity and
repair) to novel acute care treatments. The research themes while centred on clinical applications will build on
preclinical research discoveries with a vivid information exchange across different 3 disciplines to optimally exploit
knowledge gains. The outstanding opportunities at the University of Zurich allow the combining of the research
projects of neurological experts within the targeted disorders and basic research in engineering and neurobiology.
This will create a successful venue for the introduction of novel neuro-rehabilitation approaches, to team up for
advanced educational programs and will provide invaluable information for conducting successful clinical trials.