We're a little crazy, about science!

Another surgical shadow

Just FYI, I didn’t take this and I’m pretty sure it’s just a stock photo, but it works for the post. I wouldn’t want to cause any privacy issues.

Well it’s officially on the books! Monday (super early) morning I will be shadowing my second surgery. For those new around here this was the first. It was an awesome experience and I’m excited to do it again. Today we’ll talk about why I, as someone who does non-invasive research, is even attending surgeries and what I get out of them. There is an actual practical reason to attend, but it’s also just super interesting!

My Co-PI’s lab is on to me. I’m overly excited to do some of the research projects and they’ve made comments about how I find the time to do all that with my grad school work. Hint, it’s all in the planning and the high levels of stress I seem to operate at constantly! I mean seriously, I’m an anxious person and I don’t know how I manage to juggle all this without falling apart. It’s probably because of the support system I’ve created for myself, but I can still be in awe of how I manage to do anything. Especially when (like just a few weeks ago) I constantly feel like things are about to collapse around me only to, you know, not.

I can’t help it, I love the work I do and I really want to be a part of it. Thankfully this summer I have absolutely nothing going on in terms of classes so I can focus on my writing (as in journal papers, not blog!) and this experiment. It’s actually going to be a pretty relaxed summer for me and I need it so badly after this last term. I’m not going to tell my Co-PI’s lab this since I’m okay with them all being impressed with my super work juggling skills, but it’s true.

The story starts here, I literally had a lot on my plate, but my Co-PI offered me a super cool project to do over the summer and I (of course) said yes. This seems to be a theme (like this time I said yes). This project was one I helped design, it was something I was incredibly excited to be a part of, and we’ve had it on the board for about a year now. So the experiment isn’t the surprise, the surprise was that we’re actually about to start it.

The nice thing about experiments like the one I’m doing is that it’s based on a more invasive experiment. This is where the surgical shadow part comes in. So in neurosurgery they sometimes use needle electrodes to stimulate the brain or muscles and record responses. Part of my project is doing this (non-invasively of course), but the idea is to get a first hand example of the procedure we’re emulating. This is where I will learn all sorts of things from where they place the electrodes, to what the responses look like.

It will help make sense of the data I collect because any time we record things non-invasively the amplitudes are not nearly as good and our signal to noise ratio is incredibly low (meaning a lot of noise for very little “signal” or the thing we’re interested in seeing). Seeing what the responses look like first hand will help when I’m working with this lower quality data. Okay, not exactly lower quality, just less clear? It’s the trade off between non-invasive work and invasive.

The benefit to doing things non-invasively is that we can work with individuals who don’t have neurological issues that may cause changes to the response or may cause a completely different response than what we expect. Basically we need to understand what healthy responses look like before we can make sense of injured responses. Since we can’t ethically do invasive work with people who have nothing wrong and thus no direct benefit from the work, we do non-invasive studies instead.

While I can’t go into detail about the summer project (yet another running theme around here!) I can say that the question we’re trying to answer is an interesting one and it will help us understand some of the other stuff we’re working on. Namely the experiment I did that I’m not a huge fan of (here). Eventually… one day… this will all get published and I won’t have to be vague about what I was doing. It will be fun to point back to these posts when that happens, but until then you all just need to wait to see what secrets I have.

I enjoy watching surgeries and just getting the chance to learn new things. With the news I got yesterday (here), I don’t know that I’ll get too many more opportunities like this, so I’ll take all the chances I can get. No matter what happens with that whole mess, I’m sure other doors will open for me to continue to do cool stuff, but for now I’m just excited that I get to watch another surgery in just a few days!!


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