I’m going into surgery… sort of!
Okay well this came out of left field, or rather happened faster than I thought it would. My Co-PI and I had discussed just last week seeing some of how the more clinical stuff gets done in terms of electrophysiology and invasive monitoring. He suggested I shadow some of the doctors while they are performing surgery to see how they do the things they do and now I’m about to get the chance to do just that. Yeah, that’s a lot of doing.
For those of you who don’t follow along regularly, I’ve had two surgeries every year for the past four years or so (you do the math), so basically a lot! This will be the first time I’m not the one on the table though so that will be a big change of pace for me. I’m excited to get the chance to do this, but the idea is to get a very hands on learning experience and hopefully walk away with a better understanding of how the invasive stuff is done.
Since we do things non-invasively recording physiological signals can be difficult in some cases. For example EEG recordings are on the order of microvolts or 0.000001 volts. TINY TINY numbers!!!!!!!! However if we could somehow just stick a electrode (non-invasively) on the brain it would be recording suddenly in volt ranges, so much larger.
Working with such small fluctuations requires super sensitive tools, but it also means we have to combat electrical noise around us from electronics, wiring, lights, basically everything. We also have to deal with other signals from the body that can contaminate the signal we’re interested in. When we record EEG, eye movement, eye blinks, even in some cases muscle and heart beat can get recorded as well. We can filter those things and get a good approximation for the actual (again tiny) signal underneath all that noise, but having a clear understanding of the signal you’re looking for is important.
Hence why I’m about to attend my first surgery. I’m going to get to watch and discuss how they monitor activity in the brain and spinal cord, what tools they use, why they use them, and most importantly what the signals should look like. That last part is super important because it will help me make sense of my work and give me a clearer understanding of the processes I’m dealing with.
It’s exciting for me because I didn’t think I would get the chance to see something like this up close and while it’s happening. I mean this stuff is probably not that thrilling for my Co-PI who arranged it, but it’s something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon!