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Posts tagged “brain

The internal scars

Not all trauma leaves a visible mark. Just like not everyone who is disabled “looks” disabled, not everyone who has had a traumatic event, even a very physical one, will have scars that show. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there, or that if you look hard enough you can’t find evidence of them, it’s just not a big flashing neon sign saying, “here I am!” It also doesn’t make them hurt any less, or make them any less real. Sometimes the trauma you can’t see is the trauma that hurts the most to carry.


Death, consent, and Einstein

Actual slices of Einstein’s brain

Death and taxes, the two constants of the world. I think some people are afraid of death because it’s so common, so… pedestrian. We all do it, wealthy, poor, unlike almost everything about life, death is the great equalizer. In life we are taught we have choices and those choices are set by our circumstances, but for the most part we get to decide what our lives look like. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case when we die, even when our wishes are made explicit. This is the true story of the death of Albert Einstein and if you don’t know it, I don’t blame you if you don’t believe it.


Effects of transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation on the brain

Experimental setup (explained in detail below)

Transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS) is a relatively new approach to neuromodulation. We can activate networks in the spinal cord by injecting a small amount of current through the skin, which evokes a response in the muscles (muscle contraction). Depending on the person the electrical stimulus (the zappy time) feels either like a massage or it can be uncomfortable, not exactly painful, just not something you would go out of your way for. But the spinal cord is a two way street, so what does TSS do in the brain?


How to save a life

You’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean and you’re taking on water. You suddenly find yourself with your head barely above the water in the middle of nowhere. The depths of the ocean here are unfathomable, you’re tired, you hurt, the ocean keeps fighting your every move. You’re one wave away from death. No salvation is coming because this is depression and to everyone around you, you look perfectly normal.


Mental health and medication


Mental illness is like any other issue with the body. There are effects from it, there are treatments for it, and like someone who’s diabetic, you (probably) lack the correct balance of chemicals in the brain and there are medications for that. Of course we live in a society where a small, but vocal, group of people are pushing for “purity.” You don’t need medication, you can just eat healthy, think your way through, change your attitude. That is a lie and one that is deadly. You cannot fix mental illness through diet and exercise anymore than you could ask a diabetic to start producing insulin on their own.


The value of clean data

Actual EEG data I’ve collected, this is “raw” or untouched data.

In my line of research we have fancy algorithms to remove outside contamination to the data we collect. The problem with collecting electrophysiological data (electrical recordings from a person) is there is so much damned noise everywhere. The problem is magnified when you collect data that have a low signal to noise ratio (meaning lots of noise, not a lot of signal). Signal in this case is the thing we’re interested in measuring and while we have dozens of algorithms to filter (remove) the noise, there’s still no substitute for data that was well collected.


Learning can be painful

Well today was the final lab meeting of the term. While the weekly meetings will (probably) be continuing, it’s still a big deal and could (hopefully) mean the end of my six weeks or so of torment. Normally I give it a few days before I talk about just how badly the meeting went, but this time was different and I’m thankful for it. The difference? My main-PI was out for medical reasons, so we got to talk about the project a little more freely.


Apparently I’m close?!

We’re talking about it again, the fact that every week for the past 5 weeks now I’ve been given tasks to do and then presenting on them the following week. It’s been… hard. However, my main-PI gave me hope that the end of all this is close, at least that’s the hope. He said I was close, so today we’re going to talk (as usual vaguely) about what I have left to do before this weeks meeting and why I cannot wait to be done with this.


I’m giving a talk!

Well I slipped through the cracks yet again! It hurts me to admit that I’ve probably earned this one. The 7th annual BRAIN initiative investigators meeting is coming (in June) and I was selected for a Trainee Highlight Award. Is it a big deal? Probably not, but I’ll take a win when I can get it. Today we’re going to dive into what exactly this means for me and why even little victories should be celebrated. Is it a little victory? I mean they did pick me, so what does that say about them?


Back to EEG processing…

It’s the day after thanksgiving and I made my annual I don’t want to have to cook for the next week or two spread of tasty foods. I don’t do the traditional Thanksgiving foods though, I prefer Mexican dishes (since I’m Mexican). Namely I make a huge batch of tamales, since they are a bit of work I tend to make a comically large amount, think 100 or more. So while I have food to last, I need to get back to my main focus and that’s work!


How can we record from the brain non-invasively?

Still my favorite photo, which I took showing the EEG setup process we use these days!

We can read your mind! Okay, not quite, we can read the electrical activity going on in the brain and we can do this non-invasively. That’s right, you can do it from your own home if you wanted (here). It’s easy and since you don’t have to break the skin, it’s about as safe as can be. The real question here is why does this even work? For that we need to talk a bit on biology so let’s do this!


EEG Cleaning: ICA and Dipoles

This is (a very, very, small portion) of the data I’m working with for this post!

Let it be known that I’m a person of my word and today we’re going to give a rather broad overview of ICA and dipoles. Don’t know what those words mean? Well start here and that will give you a high level view of the entire process. Today we’re going to do a slightly deeper dive into what the heck a dipole is, why we use it for ICA and why ICA is so helpful in EEG data processing. Sound like a lot? Well it is, but let’s take a crack at it anyway!


Day 106: Super Busy!!!!!

Today I had my experiment (yay), so now I need to process the data. I also sat in another PhD defense for one of our lab members, so now that I have a free second I wanted to give an update. Expect a longer post tomorrow, but for today, I have sooooo much work to do!

Until next time, don’t stop learning!

Day 105: Defense day #1

phd defense

This basically sums up today’s post…

Here we are another day another post. Today I will be spending the bulk of my time studying and getting my slides ready for the confrence I’ll be attending next week. That will be … fun? However today is also an important day for one of my fellow students, he’s defending his PhD.


Day 104: Experiment Prep

EEG headset

It looks like things are moving a little quicker than I thought for me. As you may or may not know, I’m getting ready to do an experiment. Well, we finally (finally!) finalized the protocol and just in time too. While I won’t make the deadline for my project update, I will have some data to show when we get to the conference, which is a good consolation prize.


How the brain consolidates memory during deep sleep

little girl sleeping

little girl sleeping

Research strongly suggests that sleep, which constitutes about a third of our lives, is crucial for learning and forming long-term memories. But exactly how such memory is formed is not well understood and remains, a central question of inquiry in neuroscience. Neuroscientists say they now may have an answer to this question in a new study that provides for the first time a mechanistic explanation for how deep sleep (also called slow-wave sleep) may be promoting the consolidation of recent memories.


Can your brain control how it loses control?

Can your brain control how it loses control?

A new study may have unlocked understanding of a mysterious part of the brain — with implications for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. The results open up new areas of research in the pursuit of neuroprotective therapies.


Where memory is encoded and retrieved

Where memory is encoded and retrieved

Are the same regions and even the same cells of the brain area called hippocampus involved in encoding and retrieving memories or are different areas of this structure engaged? This question has kept neuroscientists busy for a long time. Researchers at the Mercator Research Group “Structure of Memory” at RUB have now found out that the same brain cells exhibit activity in both processes.


Static synapses on a moving structure: Mind the gap!


In biology, stability is important. From body temperature to blood pressure and sugar levels, our body ensures that these remain within reasonable limits and do not reach potentially damaging extremes. Neurons in the brain are no different and, in fact, have developed a number of ways to stabilise their electrical activity so as to avoid becoming either overexcitable, potentially leading to epilepsy, or not excitable enough, leading to non functional neurons.


Mind reading: Researchers observe moment a mind is changed

mind reading

Researchers studying how the brain makes decisions have, for the first time, recorded the moment-by-moment fluctuations in brain signals that occur when a monkey making free choices has a change of mind. The findings result from experiments led by electrical engineering Professor Krishna Shenoy, whose Stanford lab focuses on movement control and neural prostheses – such as artificial arms – controlled by the user’s brain.


Neuronal disorders and energy metabolism

Neuron energy metabolism
Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. ATP energy is produced when the mitochondria transfers glucose and oxygen into water and carbon dioxide. How ATP is produced and delivered to intricate neuronal dendrites has been a mystery.
Image credit goes to: Mineko Kengaku, Kyoto University’s Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS)

Scientists in Japan have have discovered how nerve cells adjust to low energy environments during the brain’s growth process. Their study may one day help find treatments for nerve cell damage and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.