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Day #161: Know your spinal cord – The medial lemniscus tract

spinal drawing

Here we are day five of knowing your spinal cord. If you’re just joining us, I’ve created a new category where you can find all the posts. Or you can start at the beginning with the medullary pyramids (technically not part of the spine, but close enough). If you’re all caught up or just want to learn about this specific tract, then let’s get started.

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Day #160: Know your spinal cord – The corticospinal pathway

spinal cord cross section drawing

We’ve made it to day four of knowing your spinal cord. I’ve introduced a new category just for this, which makes these posts easier to find for future reference (yours or mine). For those of you just starting out, you may want to go from the first post on the medullary pyramids. For the rest of you, you’re probably here to learn about the corticospinal pathway. This will be fun, so let’s get started.

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Day #159: Know your spinal cord – Organization

spinal cord

For those of us just tuning in, today is the third part in a … well a lot of posts on the spinal cord! If you’re just joining us, you should probably start from the top (literally) here and this post covers the anatomy of the cord. Today we are going to talk spinal organization, for that reason we also should talk about how the brain is organized, which will help us make sense of why the spinal cord is organized the way it is, so let’s get started!

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Day #158: Know your spinal cord – The anatomy

leonardo da vinci spine drawing

Now that we took it from the top, let’s get an overview of what exactly makes up the spinal cord. There is a lot, so we’re not going to do a comprehensive review since that would be a whole class and not a single post. Most of the structures we cover today, will have a seperate post where we can go into detail.

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Day #157: Know your spinal cord – Medullary Pyramids

brainstem drawing

I’m excited that today we are starting the know your spinal cord series that I’ve been working on. Today we are going to take it from the top, no really. We’re starting at the top of the cord and we will work our way down. So without further delay, let’s look at the curious case of the medullary pyramids!

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Day #156: Experiment results

cervical spine

Well to say it’s been a busy week is probably an understatement and it doesn’t seem like it will be slowing down anytime soon. As it stands today was the end of our data collection. We managed to get ~15 subjects to go through our protocol and while I cannot share anything (yet) I can talk about the stuff I’ve learned and what is coming.

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Day #155: Experiments!!

So it turns out when you have 12 hours of experiments to do there isn’t much time for other things. Yesterday we had 3 experiments, today we have another 3 experiments (technically I’m writing this yesterday night, confusing I know). So basically I don’t have a whole lot of time to write. I’m going off to get some sleep and tomorrow (today, again confusing I know) I get to do this all over again. I hope wednesday I will have a bit more time and we can get into why the spinal cord is so cool! In any case, stay tuned!


Day #154: Review – Spinal stretch reflexes support efficient hand control

Fig1(A)

Fig 1 (a) from the paper, showing the multijoint perturbation away from target (red) with simultaneous flexion at the elbow and either flexion, extension, or no perturbation at the wrist joint.

Today is that critical review paper I promised. Everything following this introduction explains how the experiment was done, what they found, and why I think it is particularly interesting. To me the experiment was so well thought out I couldn’t think of anything I would change. Instead I focused on the methodology they used and why it highlights the importance of a well thought out experiment. This is really my first attempt at a “critical review” so take it how you will.

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Day #153: The week ahead

plan for the week

Tomorrow is more experiments! We’re doing all the experiments tomorrow. Okay, not all of them, but we have an ambitious three experiments lined up for tomorrow so it will definately be a long, long day. Still recovering from surgery too… so yeah it’s going to be a time. There are a few other things going on this week, so let’s look ahead and maybe talk about what I’m thinking of doing for the next round of themed posts (educational topic posts).

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Day #152: Improving my writing

writing

One of the outcomes of my recent meeting with my PI (my main one), is that I am going to be actively working on my writing. While I do this to improve my writing, this is far more informal than the writing I would be doing for a confrence or journal paper (both of which I’ve written). That isn’t to say that I cannot improve, there’s always room for improvement and I could use a LOT of improvement.

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Day #151: Surgery at the VA, a runthrough

VA hospital

Nice and foggy today, look at that nasty roof! Got to love the VA (even though it looks more like a prison, which I guess it sort of is.

Now that I’m somewhat out of my anesthesia sickness (seriously not fun), I figured I would give a rundown on what having surgery through the VA looks like and some of the things you have to do pre-surgery to get ready. Since I’ve never had a surgery outside of the VA, it would be interesting to see how much of this applies to other hospitals, but I suspect that the answer would be not much.

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Day #150: Surgery update

Well I’m alive, despite the VA’s best efforts. I’m struggling with some serious nausea to the point of vomiting, which has never happened to me before. I’m also in a lot of pain, but that was expected. In any case, start to finish (start as in the operating room and finish as in getting home so +30 minutes or so to the actual finish time) it took ~9 hours total good times for everyone. Anywho, I feel like death so I’ll write more later.


Day #149: An auspicious start

Brain

Well we did an experiment. I wish I could talk more about what we did, how we did, and why we did. Alas, I cannot. So instead, let’s talk about the vague how it went metric as in, maybe we found something maybe we didn’t, also this experiment highlights several quarks between the my school lab and the clinical lab.

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Day #148: Experimental design

 

EEGCap

Today is day one of ten for the time that I have to do some experiments. It’s an awkward time for sure, I mean surgery, school, etc. However, that’s just the way things work in academia, I actually had a break, so I’m ready to go to be honest. Which really means this isn’t horrible timing. I’ve already discussed the million things going on these weeks, but let’s talk about what goes into experiments, really.

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Day #147: First day in the lab

lab

A semi good photo of our lab!

Today is the first day in the lab since break. It was nice to have some time off, I got some housework done, got to spend the bulk of my time sick (not my idea of fun), and best of all I got to see some of the city. It’s been good and now that I’m ready to get back to it, the week is looking to be busy.
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Day #146: Back to school!

Back2School

My photo, but not my school, just one I visited.

Tomorrow is the big day, back to school, back to classes. This means that any and all house projects will inevitably come to a screeching halt until spring break (most likely) and it marks the shift in blog posts from life outside the lab to life in the lab. There are a few things I like to do to get ready for classes the day before, so let’s talk school.

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Day #145: A day out

dinotastic

Well, I moved. Okay, I moved over a year ago. The problem with that is I have been so busy with everything, I haven’t had a time to get out and see the sights. Sure, I’ve visited a few places, but in the terms of what this new city has to offer, I have yet to see pretty much anything outside of school. So let’s take a look at my visit the local museum of natural science!

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Day #144: Another day spent at the VA

VA hallway

An endless VA hallway, it feels like a metaphor for something… can’t quite put my finger on it.

It’s been an interesting few days, I’ve had several meetings with my PI and my Co-PI, I’ve got classes starting again, and I have a surprise experiment. However, I have something else coming up that I failed to mention, I’m also having surgery! Which means the inevitable jumping through hoops to get ready. Each VA seems to do things differently, so this will be a fun attempt at explaining how it works.

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Day #143: Meeting with my two PI’s

Exo

Some of our exoskeletons from the lab

Today was an interesting set of events. I had my meeting with my two PI’s (which I still think would make a hilarious television show). The meeting went well, I’m very excited, but I’m also getting ready to be very, VERY busy. Let’s breakdown how it went shall we?

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Day #142: So you want to record from the brain…

EEG setup

My college helping me set up for the experiment I just did. This is how we add gel to the head, there is a tiny hole by each sensor, we then insert a blunt tip needle (we do NOT puncture the skin!) to add the gel between the sensor and the top of the head to eliminate the air gap caused by the hair. Unfortunately it looks scary, but we need something tiny to get around the sensor (if you look close you can seethe tiny, tiny opening each senor has). The lights on each sensor tell us how good of a connection we have, red means bad, yellow means we’re getting close, and green means good. 

Today’s post was inspired by a conversation I was having yesterday in the comment section (you know who you are and thank you for the questions). I thought I would elaborate on how we record from the brain and why. There are a lot of different ways we can do this, some of them are super invasive and others are non-invasive. In the lab I work in now, we do things non-invasively there are good things about this and bad things about this, so let’s get into it!

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Day #141: PI meeting result

brains

Well I’ve had my first meeting with my main PI (vs my Co-PI). It went well, I’m very happy with the result and while I’m not at the end of my PhD (yet), it seemed like we were in agreement with my progress. I still have the meeting with my PI and Co-PI coming up, but let’s go over some of the things that we talked about in this meeting.
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Day #140: A meeting with my PI

 

EEGCap

Tools of the trade, an EEG cap I set up for my experiment

With the term about to start (we get another week, even though some schools are already kicking off), I have a few things that I need to do prior to the start. One of those things was make more work for myself, no really. I made a few emails between my two PI’s (which sounds like a TV show) and arranged for a meeting.

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Day #139: My cat cannot lay down right…

hikari

Huh, maybe it isn’t big enough for her to fit? No, she’s just a big weirdo, keep reading…

Well today is another day of painting the house. Like I mentioned this has been an ongoing project since I moved last year, let me just say painting takes longer than you think it will. In any case, with all the stress of possible war, I need a way to relax or at least something else to focus on. In that regard I thought I would share one of my fuzzy daughters.

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Day #138: Stress painting

Tali

Tali expressing exactly how I feel at the moment.

Today is one of those days where I’m stuck trying to figure out what to write about. Granted they happen infrequently, but this is a little different. With all the stress from the impending probability of war I just want to relax. I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in painting my house, a project I’ve been working off and on for the past year. It’s nice to be able to do something mindless, something I can distract myself with. Basically I’m just going to be doing that for the day.


Day #137: The reality of war

IwoJima

Fun fact, this is a staged photo. For an even more “fun” fact, you should learn about what happened to these people after the photo was taken and made popular.

Well, 2020 is off to an … interesting start. We have all of Australia burning, Indonesia flooding, and trump starting a war without congressional approval (that last one is a rather large crime fyi). So in typical american fashion, people are starting to fetishize war again. Of course these are the people who have never been to war, so as someone who has some experience on this, let’s talk war. It’s going to get messy so let’s just throw in a CW for combat talk.

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Day #136: A look forward

a look forward

The obligatory photo of a path that goes on into the distance (taken from the hike we went on during the neurotech confrence).

Yesterday we took a look back at the past decade. I’m not a fan of looking back, it’s not how I’ve survived this long, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with, and even though it wasn’t a bad thing to do, I would rather look forward and talk about the things that will be happening (hopefully) this year. Let’s ring in the new year with the to-do list for this year!

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Day #135: A decade in review

robot

With everyone doing a review of what happened in the past decade, I thought it would be good to look back and cover the things I’ve done over the years. Is it a little self serving? Maybe, but then again it is my blog, so why not? Here’s my decade in review.

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Day #134: New Year’s Eve!!

Newyearseve2020

Well it’s new year’s eve so I’m taking the day off. What? No, no party or anything, I’ll probably be asleep when the new year hits. It’s just a good excuse not to have to blog today and get some house work done instead. Maybe I’m old or maybe I’m just boring, but it beats trying to be social.

In any case, here’s to the new year and the hope that the next 10 years will be better than the last!

 


Day #133: The truth of VA healthcare

VA Hospital

I’m a disabled Marine veteran. From a TBI to my mental health, I’ve got some serious issues. Furthermore, with the rate of suicide among veterans ever increasing it may be odd to an outsider why this is happening. After all, the government provides us with free healthcare, why are so many of us dying, why are so many of us killing ourselves? The answer is sadly straightforward, although grim, so let’s talk healthcare as a veterans.

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Day #132: Rat model validation!

stock photography Pet rat closeup

Yesterday I mentioned that I had some rat data to go through. It was an old(er) dataset, about five years-old to be exact, but it was one that was going to help me validate some of my findings. Unfortunately there existed no invasive human datasets to compare my human data to, so I needed to find an animal model, in this case a rat model. Let’s discuss the importance.

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Day #131: My laptop is ALIVE!

poor laptop

The poor thing has been through a lot, notice my c key is completely worn down. I didn’t know I hit c so hard!

Well after a few days of curing time, my laptop is alive again! In fact I’m writing this on it now. YAY!! I honestly don’t have the money to replace the thing and I already have much needed car repairs to attend to, so this cannot break on me yet.

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Day #130: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, a racist police story

Day 130 - night before christmas

With all the excitement around here, I almost forgot to tell one of my favorite stories! Okay, not a favorite, but a good example of why racist cops are… well racist. Let’s set the scene, it was seriously the night before Christmas and it was the first time I dealt with a police officer, it wouldn’t be the last time, but it was certainly the most memorable. Especially when my name got thrown into the mix, let me explain…

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Day #129: Everything is breaking!!!

Day 129 - repairs

Well it’s post Christmas day and I have to say my stealth wrapping was a hit. Of course, after the first gift (or even the second gift) people catch on, but overall it was a lot of fun and I even got a few apologies for some of the ill will based on my apparent lack of wrapping abilities. I HIGHLY recommend giving it a shot. So let’s talk about the image above for a minute.

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Day #128: Christmas Day

Red Christmas Balls on Old Wood with Christmas lights

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas! For those of you who celebrate different holidays this time of the year, happy holidays, and for those of you who don’t celebrate anything, that’s okay too. No judgement here for sure. Since today is C-day I figured I would do a quick post and share something a bit personal to me.

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Day #127: Stealth wrapping Pt. 3

santa

For the past two days I’ve been trying to introduce a new way to level up your gift giving experience. It’s a way to make your holidays more magical, best of all, this works for any present giving time, birthdays, weddings, anytime! If you’re just tuning in you should read part 1, where I introduce the first principles of stealth wrapping. Yesterday I posted a few more examples, which you can see here. Today I’ll give some last examples and a few helpful hints I’ve learned over the years of doing this. Let’s get going!!

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Day #126: Stealth wrapping Pt. 2

wrapping

This is a continuation from yesterday’s post. If you haven’t read how I like to wrap my presents, you should probably start here. For the rest of you, this is going to be just a few more examples of my wrapping creativity. Same rules apply, don’t stealth wrap your gift as something the person would want! I CANNOT stress that enough, otherwise let’s get started.

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Day #125: I wrap better than you, a how to guide

Presents

Tis’ the season! The holidays are here and depending on your traditions and what you believe in, you’re probably planning on giving gifts to the people you care about. Think about it for a second, perfectly wrapped rectangular packages organized neatly just waiting for you to open them. But that’s boring!!! Why wrap your gifts nice and square when you can have some fun with it. Let me blow your mind.

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Day #124: On the importance of time off

Overworked

When I left the military, I threw myself into work. I was offered — and I took — all the overtime I could get. If I stayed busy, I didn’t have to think about anything else and at the time, it is what I wanted. I didn’t want to have to think about anything else. It was an unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle, one I don’t necessarily regret, just one I had to learn from.

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Day #123: Well I HAD a meeting

timeobsessed

Today I reluctantly had two things to do on my list, this despite being sick. Now, I don’t normally like going out when I’m unwell, I don’t want to get others sick, I don’t want to suffer more, blah blah blah. The usual things you’re supposed to do when you are sick. Well today I was not that lucky, let’s talk about why.

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Day #122: Moving forward

prosthetic head

After the events of the past week, I need a break. Not just because of all the excitement that has occured, but because I am sick. Like bad. There is never a good time to be sick per say, but if I had to be sick, this was about as good of timing as I could ask for. Let’s talk about what’s next once I’m feeling better.

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Day #121: Qualifying Exam Aftermath

Steele - QE

I don’t normally share photos of myself, but I thought I would share the final slide, I love it so much.

Well if you don’t follow me on twitter, then you don’t know the results of my qualifying exam. Well I’ll tell you, but not yet. First let’s talk about how it went and what the qualifying exam is (I know we’ve covered this already here, but it would be good to do it again).

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Day #120: The art of the data request (update)

RFI, Request for Information

Today is the big day, it’s my qualifier day. Since it hasn’t happened yet I cannot tell you how it went, but I feel pretty good about it. However, I still have a lot of other news to share, like my data request update. So let’s get to it.

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Day #119: Conference Day 4

Winners

The winners of the pitch competition giving a surprise 1-2 minute elevator pitch

Well, I’m finally home. It’s been exhausting, but super exciting. I’ve got so much to share I’m not even sure where to start. Let’s go over how yesterday went first. It was our last day at the confrence and our trainees got to present their company pitches. We named the top three (of ten) teams and they got prizes (surprisingly useful and super nice prizes, a wireless phone charger in fact). We also had some talks, so let’s go through the highlights.

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Day 118: Conference Day 3

It’s been a busy conference. Yesterday was a particularly full day and so today, I’m blogging via phone. This morning we hiked a mountain. Well A-mountain (seriously that’s the name of it).

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Day #117: Conference Day 2

Start

Today is the first day of the neurotech workshop (day 2 of my confrence schedule since I had 2 conferences back to back) and man did I do something evil. Well… maybe not that evil, but more evil genius. They gave me some creative power and I found a way to make it funny. Let’s take a look at the result, shall we?

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Day #116: Conference Day 1

moon view

Shot I took of the moon

Made it in one piece to my destination! Since I’m writing this before today’s events start, let’s talk about yesterday. While the bulk of the time was spent traveling it wouldn’t hurt to muse on a few of the events, especially since today will be a much busier (or at least more event packed) day.

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Day #115: Conference time!

airplane-travel

Well today is the day, I’m packed and ready for the … festivities? Okay, so maybe not something that is a party, but conferences are a good chance to meet with people and share ideas. While this is a small one for our research group, it’s still a way to let others know what advancements have been made in the field.

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Day #114: Classifier Update

NARXNET Classifier-Raw out

Behold! My amazing predictive power!! *insert evil laugh here*

It’s been a long and exhaustive road to get to here. As you may recall, I’ve given several updates already on my progress and I THINK I’ve finally hit success. In fact, I know I have, the problem now? Well what the neural net saw to make the predictions is a mystery to me, so I don’t know why or how it works… yet.

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Day #113:Practice makes… better?

Presentation practice

Conference is coming! With my talk right around the corner today is prep day. Basically I’m giving my talk today to the lab in the hopes that when I do it for real, it doesn’t completely suck. So practice, practice, practice!

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Day #112: Conference Prep

conference

We are just a few days away from my first of two events back to back. First up is the confrence I keep mentioning. It’s a meeting with collaborators from several schools to discuss work we’ve been doing that the group funded. I have one of those projects, so I will be presenting a powerpoint with an update on the work along with a poster that I’ve made.

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