New technologies and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - Which step forward rushed by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Journal of the neurological sciences. 2020;:117081
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fast-progressive neurodegenerative disease leading to progressive physical immobility with usually normal or mild cognitive and/or behavioural involvement. Many patients are relatively young, instructed, sensitive to new technologies, and professionally active when developing the first symptoms. Older patients usually require more time, encouragement, reinforcement and a closer support but, nevertheless, selecting user-friendly devices, provided earlier in the course of the disease, and engaging motivated carers may overcome many technological barriers. ALS may be considered a model for neurodegenerative diseases to further develop and test new technologies. From multidisciplinary teleconsults to telemonitoring of the respiratory function, telemedicine has the potentiality to embrace other fields, including nutrition, physical mobility, and the interaction with the environment. Brain-computer interfaces and eye tracking expanded the field of augmentative and alternative communication in ALS but their potentialities go beyond communication, to cognition and robotics. Virtual reality and different forms of artificial intelligence present further interesting possibilities that deserve to be investigated. COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented opportunity to speed up the development and implementation of new technologies in clinical practice, improving the daily living of both ALS patients and carers. The present work reviews the current technologies for ALS patients already in place or being under evaluation with published publications, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.