The Institute for Cognitive Prosthetics
For more Information contact:
Elliot Cole, PhD, Institute for Cognitive Prosthetics
P.O. Box 171, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Elliot Cole, PhD
Dr. Cole’s interest is the human side of computing, looking at ways that individuals and groups can use computers to better achieve their own ends. His area is designing of software to make work, home, community, and leisure activities easier to do.
In the mid-1980s, he was given a tour of a residential traumatic brain injury rehabilitation center, and became convinced that computer technology could reduce some of the disabilities experienced by individuals following a TBI. A pilot study provided Proof-of-Concept, that computer software could be a cognitive prosthesis for TBI. Part of the success of the project was due to the person-centered approach he took in working with the individual.
He then founded the Institute for Cognitive Prosthetics as a R&D center, with the mission of bringing technology to the TBI rehabilitation field, which wasn’t using computers for therapy.
Dr. Cole built the R&D staff with people from both clinical disciplines and computing disciplines, coupled with healthcare research.
The approach to technology design was patient-centered (the needs of a TBI patient, who had both disabilities and strengths) rather than problem-centered (the common needs of TBI patients with cognitive disabilities). The patient-centered approach was implemented so that the individual became active and engaged in the refinement and use of the software. Also, clinicians and software designers worked side-by-side, which enhanced communication between the two sets of disciplines, resulting in useful technology. This approach proved very productive. Among the innovations was the use of cognitive prosthetic software as a therapy tool.
The National Institutes of Health awarded several grants to the Dr. Cole, including grants from the Division of Fundamental Neuroscience. Participating clinical sites included the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Dartmouth Medical School, and Moss Rehabilitation Hospital. Dr. Cole served as an NIH Study Section member for six years; Study Sections provide the scientific peer review of research proposals. Dr. Cole has also served as a proposal reviewer for the National Science Foundation, The Department of Defense, the National Institute for Disabilities and Rehabilitation Research, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Dr. Cole is the author of more than 100 papers and presentations at scientific and professional meetings in North America, Great Britain, Europe, and Australia. He is currently also a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania\s Organization Dynamics program, where he is exploring issues of the diffusion of technological innovation in healthcare.
The mission of the Institute for Cognitive Prosthetics is to design and develop technology that will help people with cognitive disabilities from brain injury in their everyday lives. People with cognitive disabilities are unable to self-sufficiently perform at least some everyday activities; that is the meaning of disability. Computer science has some powerful people-centered techniques for designing software tools that help people perform their activities. These techniques involve substantial interaction with the people who use the technology. We use these techniques in studying people with a disability, their priorities, their families, and their therapists.
In the early 1990s, we discovered that computer technology could build powerful therapy tools for cognitive rehabilitation therapists. Therapists using these tools with their patients were able to help them make rapid gains in their functioning.
Our mission has evolved to focus on the design of technology to improve the effectiveness of therapy, particularly from the perspective of the individual with cognitive disabilities. Consequently, our efforts focus on the design of therapy tools and techniques, both for the therapist and for the individual with disabilities.
We fulfill our mission by developing highly customizable computer software, along with techniques for individuals with cognitive disabilities from brain injury and their therapists.
About Our Process and Technology
People involved with brain injury have learned that every brain injury is different. In developing technology for individuals with brain injury, the technology needs to be highly customizable, so that it can be personalized to fit the needs of each individual, and to continue to personalize the software as the individual recovers.
Our process focuses on the needs of the individual, the brain injury survivor. From this beginning, we have learned Individuals do best when therapy is centered on their own activities.
In selecting activities for therapy, the patient’s priority activities are chosen Special software – cognitive prosthetic software – is used to help the individual be able to perform these activities.
It is possible to design the software so that it is intuitive to the individual, and little training is needed. We have developed techniques that enable the individual to design the elements of the software that require customization – the user interface, the commands, instructions, and layout of the software.
The individual receives therapy in the home, sitting at a desk, using the cognitive prosthetic software, and videoconferencing with the therapist at the clinic. They work on a target priority activity during therapy. Almost all activities involve organization, planning, and preparation, which become the topic of the therapy. The therapist will give an assignment to the individual to do between therapy sessions, to help the individual move the planning forward.
The individual returns to the desk to work on the priority activity between therapy sessions, because the activity is part of the individual’s real life.
A book with case studies and models, by Dr. Elliot Cole
Patient-Centered Design of Cognitive Assistive Technology for Traumatic Brain Injury Telerehabilitation, a book by Elliot Cole, PhD, 2013. Available for purchase at morganclaypool.com for the PDF and PDF Plus electronic versions and on Amazon.com for the print edition and content-preview. This book is part of the Morgan and Claypool computer science series on Assistive, Rehabilitative, & Health-Preserving Technologies.
Computer software has been productive in helping individuals with cognitive disabilities. Personalizing the user interface is an important strategy in designing software for these users, because of the barriers created by conventional user interfaces for the cognitively disabled. Cognitive assistive technology (CAT) has typically been used to provide help with everyday activities, outside of cognitive rehabilitation therapy.
This book describes a quarter-century of computing R&D at the Institute for Cognitive Prosthetics, focusing on the needs of individuals with cognitive disabilities from brain injury. Models and methods from Human Computer Interaction (HCI) have been particularly valuable, initially in illuminating those needs. Subsequently HCI methods have expanded CAT to be powerful rehabilitation therapy tools, restoring some damaged cognitive abilities which have resisted conventional therapy.
Patient-Centered Design (PCD) emerged as a design methodology which incorporates both clinical and technical factors. PCD also takes advantage of the patient’s ability to redesign and refine the user interface, and to achieve a very good fit between user and system. Therapy delivered to the home makes it practical to integrate the patient’s actual activities into therapy, and has a rich set of advantages for the many stakeholders involved with brain injury rehabilitation.
Table of Contents: Overview / Some Clinical Features of the Cognitive Disabilities Domain / Adapting Computer Software To Address Cognitive Disabilities / The Primacy of the User Interface / Patient-Centered Design / Cognitive Prosthetics Telerehabilitation / The Active User and the Engaged User / Outcomes and Anomalies / Conclusions, Factors Influencing Outcomes, Anomalies, and Opportunities.
Therapy that empowers you . . . Technology that brings you home
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