We're a little crazy, about science!

Experiment result preview

This summer I am performing an experiment that could change our understanding of what a certain type of stimulation is doing. It’s all incredibly exciting (as always when I’m in my Co-PI’s lab) and I get to be the first author on the result. If we can show that this thing we are looking for is true then it will be a big shift in our understanding, but more importantly it will open the door to new types of non-invasive treatments. While I cannot talk about the details (as always) I can share that I’m excited about what may be coming.

We’ve only collected two datasets so far of the ten or more that we need for this experiment. We’re aiming for between ten and twelve, but that depends on how many we can schedule in the time that we have. Part of this project is to work with my summer intern, so we need to finish, or be mostly finished, by the time her internship ends. She will present the work she helped with this summer during a small poster presentation session. By the end of July we need to have most, if not all, the work done.

Since our timeline is so strict we need to make sure the experiment is working as expected (I redesigned it as we were doing it, lol) and that our equipment is recording the correct “stuff.” Since we’re using some equipment that had never been tested in our lab — as in still fresh in it’s packaging a few years after we bought it, shoved it on a shelf, and forgot about it — it was imperative that we check it out.

We did one pre-experiment where I was the subject and we troubleshot the entire thing. Then last week I was the first subject for the actual experiment, as in the data will be used in the paper. Then we collected one other dataset shortly afterwards. However, we can’t do the entire experiment without knowing what we have, or if we have anything at all. EEG is tricky like that since raw EEG looks like useless squiggles and really until you work with it, it is just a bunch of squiggles. The fun part is that those squiggles could be noise, nothing at all, some sort of artifact, or (if you’re lucky) recordings of brain activity.

Yesterday since I had a free moment I cracked it open and tried to figure out what we had. Then I had a minor panic attack and ran to my Co-PI. At first it looked like we found absolutely nothing. As in no brain activity at all, just a bunch of noise and not even useful noise, just random line noise that didn’t have useful information hidden in it. Luckily after some troubleshooting and playing around with the data it turns out I was happily mistaken.

We found good(ish) EEG data. The equipment we’re using isn’t super high end or anything, not like the stuff I use in my main-PI’s lab, but my Co-PI almost never does EEG studies so this makes sense. High end equipment would just sit in a corner forever and get pulled out once a year (if that). We’ve had the current system for almost two years now (since I started in his lab basically) and it was still neatly wrapped in the package it was sent in when I cracked it open for this experiment.

So now the big question, did we find anything super cool? The answer is…. maybe? It’s hard to say what we have right now, but we found some of the expected stuff we were looking for so now the heavy analysis part where I take the data, run it through a bunch of processing, then see what the nice clean data looks like on the other end. That’s going to be a bit of work on the other side of things.

For now, it means that our equipment is functioning as expected and that we can continue collecting data without the constant fear that the EEG system isn’t working the way it should. The bad side is that we can’t check each and every experiment since that would be time consuming, but we can check regularly enough that we should be able to get ten good datasets before the end of the summer internship.

Afterwards we get to look forward to writing the paper, which will hopefully be the paper submitted sometime at the beginning of next year, maybe sooner if we can swing it, but I have a different first author paper that I’m currently working on for my Co-PI that needs more of my attention so I can’t work on it as much as I would like at the moment (plus the other-other first author paper I’m working on for my main-PI, so many papers!).

Long story short, we took a look at the data and we may have something, but we won’t know for sure until I’m finished with the analysis. I’m excited since at first glance it looks like SOMETHING is happening, but what is anyone’s guess and we’re only expecting one result, sooooo who knows?! Ugh I hate that this stuff takes so long, I just want to share with everyone what I’m doing. Well hopefully soon I’ll have some cool results to start sharing. Of course that means I’ll have to firmly be not-so-semi-anonymous at that point, but I think I can live with that when the time comes.


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