Presence and rehabilitation: Toward second-generation virtual reality applications in neuropsychology

Giuseppe Riva, Fabrizia Mantovani, Andrea Gaggioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Virtual Reality (VR) offers a blend of attractive attributes for rehabilitation. The most exploited is its ability to create a 3D simulation of reality that can be explored by patients under the supervision of a therapist. In fact, VR can be defined as an advanced communication interface based on interactive 3D visualization, able to collect and integrate different inputs and data sets in a single real-like experience. However, "treatment is not just fixing what is broken; it is nurturing what is best" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi). For rehabilitators, this statement supports the growing interest in the influence of positive psychological state on objective health care outcomes. This paper introduces a bio-cultural theory of presence linking the state of optimal experience defined as "flow" to a virtual reality experience. This suggests the possibility of using VR for a new breed of rehabilitative applications focused on a strategy defined as transformation of flow. In this view, VR can be used to trigger a broad empowerment process within the flow experience induced by a high sense of presence. The link between its experiential and simulative capabilities may transform VR into the ultimate rehabilitative device. Nevertheless, further research is required to explore more in depth the link between cognitive processes, motor activities, presence and flow.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Publication statusPublished - Dec 8 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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