Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

I recently watched Werner Herzog’s 2011 documentary, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” (1) The images have lingered with me ever since. Filmed with a reverence for the paleolithic humans who created the wall paintings of horses and figures, Herzog’s camera guides our eyes over the world’s oldest known visual art.

The walls of the Chauvet Cave in France were canvas for ancient humans, and their artistic techniques were truly avant-garde in history. We are, Herzog explains, connected to our predecessors through our dreams, our imaginations, and I add here, our desire to create. Rehabilitation scientists and practitioners are not exempt from this very human desire. So, over 32,000 years after the artists first rendered the paintings in Chauvet Cave, how do we in our contemporary landscapes express creativity within the rehabilitation sciences?

Research is an act of creation. Both the process and products of research are creative, drawing forth new discoveries and building on the findings of yesteryear. Creative means are used to engage participants in rehabilitation research and patients in therapy, with the aim of improving health and well-being.

In this issue themed “Creativity, Innovation, and the Arts,” you will encounter innovative projects and partnerships between editors and contributors, including a unique collaboration between rehabINK and the Biomedical Communications illustrators who have created graphics for several of our articles. Our passion for telling engaging rehabilitation stories in innovative ways will continue as we begin sharing creative content via blogs and podcasts in future releases.

Just as an artist has his methods and tools to create art, a researcher has her scientific methods and tools to make discoveries. The artist and the researcher may have in common the pursuit of understanding the world through their craft. We hope this issue of rehabINK stimulates a deeper understanding of the rehabilitation world and renews your desire to express creativity. Post a comment, share an article, tweet us, and most of all, enjoy!

Adora Chui, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Readers,

The complex, multidimensional investigations and broad-based, multidisciplinary nature of rehabilitation calls for a melding of art and science within rehabilitation research, Dr. Denise Tate (2), a rehabilitation psychology professor and a fellow of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) argues. In her 2006 ACRM lecture “The State of Rehabilitation Research: Art or Science?”, she suggests that rehabilitation science has traditionally captured the quantifiable approaches to measuring outcomes. In contrast, she considers the “art of rehabilitation” to be the emotional, creative process that challenges researchers in the field to deepen the scope of rehabilitation knowledge, in theory and in practice (2). This deepening of knowledge can occur through the use of qualitative methods and community-based collaborative research efforts, she suggests.

“Concepts of art and science are often thought of as opposites, yet their twin characteristics of creation and discovery suggest many similarities between the two.”

–Dr. Denise Tate

Some might consider a body of rehabilitation knowledge that is comprised of both art and science as a strength, or as described by Dr. Tate, a gift (2). Yet, a major critique of rehabilitation research, as Dr. Tate explains, has been its limited ability, in comparison to other disciplines, to meet traditional scientific indicators of rigor (i.e., through randomized control trials).

A response to such critiques might easily be to focus efforts on improving the quality and quantity of the traditional scientific evidence within the field—and to shun the art of rehabilitation. But, Dr. Tate argues, applying such a narrow view of what constitutes rehabilitation science stymies the field of rehabilitation (and its gifts).

“The translation of research into practice cannot be limited by data that is quantifiable, objective, and devoid of all individualities; on the contrary, it must include the richness of methods that can best help us capture individual variation in its physical, social, and psychologic contexts.” (2)

As such, Dr. Tate (2) suggests that regardless of whether rehabilitation research efforts are classified as figments of science or art, the goal of improving the quality of life of individuals with disabilities represents the common vision that unites rehabilitation research. She calls for the field to continue to develop this vision and redefine the science to include artistry.

In answer to Dr. Tate’s call, our latest issue of rehabINK presents readers with seven articles from within the field of rehabilitation that transcend the binary boundaries of art or science. In some cases, such as “Finding pathways to belonging for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities: Socio-spatial mapping as an arts-based methodology” the authors discuss how arts-based methodologies can be used, as Dr. Tate (2) advocated, to support the participation and collaboration of individuals with disabilities in research.

In “Accidental genius and hidden talent: Two cases of paradox after brain injury” the sometimes extraordinary impacts of brain injury are described. The unique experiences outlined in this article illustrate Dr. Tate’s proposal that individual variations of disability (and in this case, accidental genius) contribute to the art of rehabilitation.

Two articles focus on the evolution of creative arts as a therapeutic medium in occupational therapy for individuals with disabilities. Building on Dr. Tate’s view that we must deepen theoretical rehabilitation knowledge, “Art as meaning, not a clinical means to an end” draws upon occupational science theory to understand the role that art may play for two youths with disabilities. And, in describing the history and purpose of a creative arts studio, “Creative therapies in rehabilitation” highlights a concerning scenario in which major rehabilitation elements of the program (including the role of the occupational therapist) have recently been cut. Both these articles are accompanied by the brightly coloured paintings of artists with disability as striking reminders of rehabilitation in practice.

Finally, “Neuroscience and the arts: Highlights from the Society for Neuroscience Conference” explores how incorporating the dualities of art and (neuro)science can facilitate research within rehabilitation. This article uses tweets to innovatively ‘tell’ the story. “Research recruitment struggles? Thank you, next” also exemplifies how rehabilitation researchers can use social media platforms in creative (and artistic) ways to mobilize their findings and recruit participants–tapping into a new online rehabilitation sciences community.

In many ways, rehabINK also aims to connect with new online communities. With this themed issue, we hope to expand our reach to those (in and outside the rehabilitation field) interested in the arts. We also aim to provide readers with a visual experience that adds to the overall impact of this Issue. For instance, Sally Abudiab from our editorial team and Jennifer Bautista, an artist and rehabilitation student, created an artistic representation of rehabilitation science based on the perspectives of students, researchers, and community members connected to the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto. This graphic was developed by asking questions that encouraged respondents to reflect on their vision for rehabilitation science (read more about the process in “Breaking down barriers: The merging of the arts and rehabilitation”).

Dr. Tate called for rehabilitation researchers to find a common vision for rehabilitation science that includes the art of rehabilitation. We hope that this arts-based issue of rehabINK provides a glimpse of how student rehabilitation researchers view the numerous ways in which art and creativity continue to shape our field. Happy reading!

Denise DuBois, Managing Editor

To refer to this article, it can be cited as:

Chui A, DuBois D. Letter from the editors. rehabINK. 2019;6. Available from: https://rehabinkmag.com


  1. Bell J. Dreams from underground [Internet]. New York: The New York Review of Books; 2011 Jun 9 [Cited 2019 Jan 15]. Available from: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/06/09/dreams-underground
  2. Tate DG. The state of rehabilitation research: art or science? Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2006;87(2):160-6.