We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “neurology

Yet more papers!!

Well if it isn’t the week of every single thing that needs to be written needs to be done today, I don’t know what week it is. For those keeping score, I’ve successfully had one paper accepted for publication, had a random update and submitted a second paper for publication, and now I’m working on two other papers while I’m waiting to hear back about a third. What a week.

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The transition to clinical research

Today should be interesting… it’s my onboarding appointment, which is one of the last steps I need to complete to be hired at the hospital. There’s a lot going on in life at the moment, some of which is personal so I won’t be sharing that here, but let’s just say everything has been incredibly stressful. Oh and since I need to get the appointment done this week if I want to start on time, this was the last day I can get it done.

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PhD proposal prep

Well I’ve finally made it to the next milestone in my PhD. I’m now at the point where I can do my proposal defense. It shouldn’t be too bad, but there’s a lot involved between now and then that needs to happen including coming to some sort of an agreement between my two PI’s about what exactly the project will consist of. Since I had no idea what getting a PhD entailed when I started, I’m assuming at least some of you have no idea what’s going on so let’s go over how we got here and what I’m getting ready to do.

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The week ahead

Well the next two weeks are shaping up to be interesting. I’ve got a lot of the onboarding stuff to get out of the way for my new job (yay!) and I’m still juggling two different papers basically full-time. Considering those two things are really the only stuff on my plate at the moment things feel pretty good, sort of anyway. There’s still a lot of mental health stuff going on and I’m just feeling overwhelmed with the choices I’ve made so far. So what’s the game plan for the week look like? Let’s talk about it.

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The plastic spinal cord

Amazing spinal cord slice artwork by Greg Dunn

You can’t teach an old spinal cord new tricks, or something like that. Up until recently (like the last ten or fifteen years), we had thought that the spinal cord was a fixed thing. It was the information highway of the body and its primary role was to receive, sort, and send information from the brain to the body and vice versa. That’s (thankfully) not the case. The truth, or at least something closer to the truth, is that the spinal cord is a lot like the brain. It can learn, think, and even act independently of the brain.

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The art in science

One of the easiest ways to turn even the most advanced scientific paper into something accessible is through carefully crafted figure design. Figures are a way to tell a story, but to also capture the readers imagination. The difference between a scientific figure and a drawing from a story is really just the difference in the information you are conveying. However, as is the case with most things in the world, a “good” figure is in the eye of the beholder.

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Non-invasive study of the brain

Art by the incredible Greg Dunn (I REALLY!!! wish I could afford his work!)

Non-invasive research is difficult, especially when you’re working with something as complicated as the brain. Imagine being at a pro sports game outside the stadium and trying to figure out what’s going on inside just by listening. I’m constantly in awe that we can record activity from the brain without breaking the skin, it’s like magic. However, it’s still difficult and not without controversy.

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The uncertain future

old door in middle of field, which opens to a whole different world.
old door in middle of field, which opens to a whole different world.

My Co-PI is leaving! Or maybe he’s not? But he could be?! I don’t even know. It doesn’t help that he has no idea and there’s no real deadline for him to make a choice, it’s whenever he’s ready. In fact, we currently have a line graph with his daily percentage on staying or leaving. I wish I was joking. It’s not just my future I’m worried about, there are others in the lab, most of us wouldn’t be able to make the journey to his new workspace, even if we wanted to (and trust me when I say if I could, I would).

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Sometimes it rains

Brains are wild. I mean we have this misshapen jello blob stuck in our head and it somehow gives us the ability to be aware. We exist and think, feel, reason, all the stuff that makes us who we are. Brains are great, except when they aren’t. Depression is a horrible thing, which lives in the brain. You can’t “just be happy” anymore than someone could just be rich. Obviously when you live with chronic depression you got a dud of a brain. It may have to do with genetics, environmental factors, the way we were raised, or maybe it’s just horrible luck, but out of all the organs we can fix or replace, the brain is not one of them. You’re stuck as you and sometimes that sucks.

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Multi-paper madness!

HELLLP! I’m doing way too much writing and it’s the scientific kind, which is to say soul sucking! Okay, it’s not that bad, but for the past month it’s been a mad rush to get several different papers written. Today I plan to go over all the papers I’m working on, the progress I’ve made, and why I really hope I’ll never have this happen again. Far too much writing! It has to end eventually though, right?

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The hunt for knowledge

Sometimes science is like digital archeology. Thanks to the internet I have the sum of our collective knowledge at the tips of my fingers. I just need to ask the right question and I can find the answer. Unfortunately, the right question isn’t always the question you come up with. The right question may not be worded the exact way you think it should. The right question may not even be the right question at all, it’s just the first in a long list of questions you need to work through. In a digital world, we’re still stuck looking for ways to get the answers to questions the system may not understand. I’m on a hunt and so far I’ve been fairly lucky.

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Juggling papers

It finally happened, it’s the big deadline, or at least most of the stuff I have due is due pretty much right now. I’ve been working on three different papers, and now I have a fourth added to the mix that I sort of forgot about until my Co-PI asked me to review the work we did in that paper, so yeah a lot going on at the moment and it’s all basically writing. So of course I’m working hard on writing… this. The truth is I need a break so I figure blogging would be a good distraction while still feeling like I’ve accomplished something. It beats doom scrolling twitter until the entire day has passed me by.

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Programming overreach

This is what happens when I try to get fancy with the work I’m doing. I end up attempting to do things that aren’t done easily or if they are done easily, I figure out the hardest way possible for me to get them done. A week or so ago (here) I was excited because I came up with a super cool way to do something and I thought that the hardest part was behind me. Oh how wrong I was… but I’m close to figuring this out, I just need to do a lot of work to dig out of this hole I threw myself into. This is why you should never do anything fancy!

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A unique figure design

Over the past few weeks I’ve been hard a work making a new visualization for some of the data I’d recently processed. This again is for the project I won an award for (here), and while I’m not trying to brag, I’m super proud of how it came together. It was the first time I tried to do something like this and not only did my main-PI give me his approval it sounds like a lot of people from the lab were impressed with this as well. Unfortunately, I can’t quite give away what I did or how I did it, but I can share some of this.

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Initial results!

Okay I’m excited! I had a project my Co-PI offered me for the summer that I really, REALLY wanted to do (this one). We’ve been slowly collecting data and haven’t had a chance to do a detailed analysis of the result yet. It looked like we had something cool, but we weren’t sure what it was. Our data had a lot of noise in it (which is a given when working with EEG) and we needed to clean it to give us a better “view” of what was going on, so yesterday I sat down to do just that…

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Conferences in a pandemic

I’m vaccinated, I got vaccinated back before most of the public could because I work and do research at a hospital. Because I work with a vulnerable population, some of whom cannot be vaccinated, I still take the pandemic very seriously. I wear my mask like I wear any other piece of clothing and the hospital understands this risk because unlike schools and other places in the area, masks are still mandatory. It’s not just a vaccination issue, it’s that vaccines are 100% effective and not everyone can be vaccinated or has access to get vaccinated. So when my favorite conference came around, I was torn about attending… was.

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Start of summer experiments

Well today is the day! I’m just hours away from collecting my first dataset for my summer project. I’m excited, it’s a cool project and I get to be first author on the paper. The topic is impressive to me so I think it will be a good way to get my name out there in the field since this will be my first paper in my Co-PI’s lab (well first, first author paper). It’s a lot of responsibility and of course I don’t have any time to prep. The first experiment is always the hardest…

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Learning is sneaky

Three years ago this fall I walked into my main-PI’s lab for the first time and I knew nothing about the work we did. I was a mechanical engineer and had machining, solid modeling, and control experience. None of which helped me in my new position. Learning something new is a slow process. The more you learn the more you realize you don’t know anything and it feels like three years later I’m just as clueless as I was when I first set foot into the building. Learning is sneaky that way, you don’t always realize how far you’ve come.

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The start of a busy week

Splitting your time between two labs should be pretty straightforward, on one hand my two PI’s have come to an agreement about how my time should be split and in a 40 hour work week, each should get roughly 20 hours of my time dedicated to the things they are working on. Easy, except it isn’t. Both are used to 40 hours to their lab and I’m not complaining, I enjoy being wanted, but as my Co-PI pointed out I have a lot going on and I need a break. Literally he told me to take a break, it’s bad enough that my Co-PI is telling me to go home.

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Competing projects

With summer upon us I still have a few things to wrap up, but I am hoping that by the end of the month I should be able to take a breather for a few weeks/month we’ll have to wait to find out. The issue now is that my main-PI and my Co-PI both have projects for me to do and both of those projects are incredibly time consuming. Oh and they both want them done at roughly the same time. Sounds fun, right?

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My talk is today and you’re all invited!

Okay so I wanted to update everyone on how my first lecture went yesterday since I only had a few short days to throw everything together and it was a mad panic to the end. Unfortunately we cannot go into detail today! That’s because today is my “I’m giving a talk” talk (which I wrote about here). It’s free to watch, my talk is roughly four minutes long and is a nice little rundown of some of the work I do. So today I figure I will go into a bit of detail and should you be so inclined to attend you’ll get the chance to chat with me in person about my work! Yep, I’m breaking anonymity yet again, but it’s for a good reason.

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Depression, a tale of hunger

Let’s pretend you have a pet that is constantly hungry. You can’t leave the house, you can’t sleep, you can’t even take a shower because anytime you want to do something for yourself this monster of a pet just won’t allow it to happen. It’s hungry. It wants to be fed and it wants to be fed NOW. Oh you’re exhausted, feed it. You want to do something for yourself? Too bad, feed it. It’s all consuming, it never sleeps, it never is satisfied, and you cannot get rid of it. Chronic depression is the pet you never asked for that demands your attention all day, every day.

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Surgical shadow update!

Well I finished my surgical shadow today. Frankly I’m exhausted, maybe I was just too excited, but I got roughly zero sleep last night. That said, it went better than the last shadow where I had just gotten my second dose of vaccine the day before. Now that was not my idea of a fun time! So per the usual I cannot go into the details, but I can talk vaguely about what happened and what’s next.

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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!

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The best laid plans…

The full quote is “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” and is from a poem, but also inspired the book title, “Of mice and men”

Well this week has been a serious rollercoaster of emotion. There have been incredibly high highs and extremely low lows. It’s so bad I’m not even sure what’s going on at the moment and it’s throwing my entire life into chaos. I wish I were exaggerating, but unfortunately I am not. So what has me so out of sorts? My academic plans are entirely up in the air now. For the next few months (up to 6 months) I will have to sit and wait to figure out what I can do about it. Let’s just start at the beginning.

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Intro to ICA

Independent component analysis, probably not something you hear about all that often unless you’re in a field that uses it. If you’ve found this via google or the such, then you’re probably looking for an explanation on what the heck ICA is and how to use it. Fear not, today we’re going over the why of ICA, why it works, why we use it, and why it isn’t the perfect tool we wish it was. Hint, the reason it isn’t perfect is because of math, stupid math. Quick note, I’ll be focusing on EEG uses for ICA, but there are tons of other applications and this knowledge will still apply to them as well.

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Second grant experiment

Data processing…. now in parallel!

Ever have one of those days that is so packed full of stuff to do you don’t think you’ll get a chance to eat? Well today is one of those days for me, I’ll be busy from morning to evening today between my experiment and class I don’t get a break! Since that’s the case, I think we should look at what’s on the agenda for the day in a bit more detail and how I plan on managing my time so that (hopefully) I won’t be late for anything.

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My first surgical shadow

With all the COVID excitement going on around here, I haven’t had the chance to share my experience about one of the coolest things I’ve had the chance to do thus far in my career! Since starting my PhD I feel like I’ve had all sorts of interesting experiences and while they haven’t helped me publish anything, I’ve learned a lot. Making a jump across fields like I did (design engineering to neural engineering) has had a steep learning curve from the start, but almost three years in and I’m feeling good about the decision.

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More data surprises!

Data’s the gift that keeps on giving. Okay not really, but I wish it were!

Well I’ve finished with the new dataset I collected for my PhD project, it was a fast analysis so there is still a lot more I can do with it, but I’ve finished at least the initial processing and plotting. Overall it’s good news so now I’m just waiting to hear back from my Co-PI to confirm my findings or more than likely temper my excitement.

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EEG, not quite mind reading

Still one of the best photos showing how we set up EEG, that syringe has a blunt tipped needle and we use it to apply gel to the scalp. Don’t worry, we don’t break the skin, so it just looks scary, but it’s really safe.

Well I’m behind schedule and even though I was given an extra week (6 days now) I don’t know that I’m going to meet my deadline. It’s not me, it’s my computer, things take time to run so I’m stuck waiting for it to do its thing. Today let’s talk about what EEG is and how we make sense of it.

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Yet more experiments?!

Sticky notes are the best.

Another long day for me. Back to back experiments (with a short break in between thankfully). It’s a lot, but I’m hopeful that after it’s all done things will slow down at least for a moment, hint they won’t. In any case, I just need to make it to tomorrow then I get a break for a few days.

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A small reprieve

Well today my midday experiment was cancelled so now I have some time to relax. Just kidding, now I have time to work on the million other things I need to get done this week! That’s the problem with writing daily, a lot of it is the same stuff, but there are some minor differences with today’s list of things to do.

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A week of experiments

Don’t mind me, just trying to turn back time… lol

Most times work can be a trickle, we get one or two subjects a week and that’s all. 6-8 hours in the entire week dedicated to collecting data and the rest of the time I’m free to process data, work on other things I need to do, basically live day to day like I didn’t live in a lab. Most of the time. Sometimes it’s a flood, like this week and next, then I’m reminded that I definitely need to work.

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Meeting a potential postdoc

Comic from phdcomics.com

Well today has been interesting to say the least. It wasn’t planned, but I went into the lab to meet my Co-PI and the new potential postdoc for the lab. I sort of rushed in last minute and the coordinator apologize, but I hadn’t planned anything that would’ve been hard to do in the lab anyway, so it wasn’t a big issue.

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Data results!

light bulb in the sunset

About a week ago I collected some data randomly. Well let me start over, not randomly my Co-PI decided it would be a good experiment to collect the data using my “super secret” technique to verify that it worked. We had six different conditions and I’ve only processed two of the conditions, so there’s still some work to be done to determine if this is real or not, but I have my initial results and my Co-PI has seen them.

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Grant writing!

writing spelled out in letter tiles

It’s time to help write another grant! In this case, it’s one I actually want. One of these days I’ll write a little tutorial on how I like to do my writing, I think it’s a good system, but then again what works for me may not work for you. This one is particularly complicated though so it needs a lot of attention. It’s not that it’s long, it’s because it’s short.

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The grant proposal

Well today one of my grant proposals is due. Technically it’s due tomorrow, but I always try to submit a day early. Why? Well, technical issues, I’m an anxious person, all that good stuff. This was an equipment grant and I did it at the request of my PI, it’s not the grant I want, but it’s a learning experience, or at least that’s how I’m treating it.

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Exoskeleton experiments

Just a few of the exoskeletons we have in the main lab, two of them are self balancing the other two in the shot are not, but they all have different purposes.

Well let’s toss something else into the pile of “things I’m going to talk about, but can’t share the details because we’re working on a publication.” I’ve got yet another new project I’m working on! This is going to be so freaking cool and I’m super excited to start it. So let’s go over some of the details, at least the bits I can talk about. Eventually when all this stuff gets published, I’m going to have a ton to write about.

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More data!

Old wooden treasure chest with strong glow from inside.
Old wooden treasure chest with strong glow from inside.

It was a surprise to me, but I somehow ended up with a new dataset from a single subject. One that, after processing, could be the key to convincing my Co-PI once and for all that we have something real… or it could just be one giant mess, but if we don’t look we may never know.

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Problem solved

Sometimes we don’t need to think outside the box, the box can stay closed for the moment…

Everyone go back to what you were doing, nothing to see here! Yesterday I had an existential crisis, one that could’ve derailed my technique and any hopes I had at introducing something new into the world. With it, my PhD dissertation topic, meaning I would be over two years in and I would need to reevaluate my goals. Let’s talk about what happened!

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A snag

No tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.

You know… that’s how it goes sometimes. You’re cruising along and everything looks great then, BAM! Totally derailed. What happened? Turns out I have a problem with my data. Not a problem persay, more like an anomaly, one that throws a rather large wrench into what WAS a perfectly running operation. Things were looking good, but now… I have a doubt.

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A lot of changes!

While EEG caps look super high tech, it’s actually a low-tech solution to an environment full of electrical noise. Each channel is pre-amplified at the source to reduce contamination as the signal travels down the cable. The first active electrodes? Made sometime in the mid 90’s, so a surprisingly new advancement in the history of EEG!

Well if there was any doubt that I write these daily I’m sure yesterday’s brief post explaining my panic helped answer that question. It really was a busy day and that’s not a bad thing. Things are… changing and I can’t tell how they will turn out now, but I’m anxious to see the outcome. How very mysterious! Let’s talk about it.

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Dataset mining

We use heavy equipment to mine our data around these parts…

I did an experiment! That’s old(ish) news, but now I have some data to play with… lots of data. So now I get to do something somewhat enjoyable and that’s try to get cool and interesting stuff to fall out of it. All you have to do is shake it really hard and hope for the best.

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A breakthrough

Oh yeah!

Well… where the hell do I even start? Yesterday was actually a semi-okay day. I mean the world is still on fire, the pandemic is still killing far too many people( but somehow not enough for the people in charge to care), and I mean let’s face it, it feels like the human race is in the death throes. HOWEVER, all that aside, my microscopic insignificant day wasn’t bad… now I’m worried.

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Neuralink: Beyond the hype

The sewing machine like robot that is the linchpin for neuralink.
The sewing machine like robot that is the linchpin for neuralink.

Brain machine interfacing, as someone who does research in the field and is getting a PhD in a brain machine interface lab, I think I’m qualified to comment on the progress neuralink. There’s a lot of hype out there, curing disease, ending paralysis, a world where we are part of the machine and the machine is part of us. Is it science fiction, or is there more to it?

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Fact or artifact

Does it belong in a museum though?

A new turn in the saga of my data processing. There has been some concern that the artifact from the stimulation is causing the thing I am seeing in my data. There are arguments to be made for both sides, but let’s go over what that could mean for me.

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So much data

This has basically been my progression in this project.

Well I’ve processed (poorly) about half of my data. Now, when I say poorly I just mean the visuals for it are garbage and I need to tweek the sizes and things to make it look nicer, but the idea is that I’m more interested in finding something than I am in making it look pretty. I’ve processed two of four of my subjects and well I’m excited!

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The after

I’m trying to remain calm. I am an objective observer in the world of science and whatever the result, I will NOT let it cloud my emotions. I am neutral and I will remain that way… oh who am I kidding, I DID IT! Two years of planning and convincing people this would work. Then last night I had my first result, and it was a relief. It was a small step, but one I was afraid the data wouldn’t let me make.

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Into the unknown

Time to cross that bridge…

Today is going to be a somewhat anxious day for me. It’s the day I get to crack open my data and see what spills out. There was a process to get to this point of course, it took me about a week, but today with just a few clicks I’m going to see if I have something or if my idea was never meant to be.

Read more… if you dare!

A busy day!

Yep I use this image a lot, but it’s such a great representation of our labs work!

Well I didn’t plan for it, but today is a busy day! I’ve got a lot going on at the moment so not a lot of time to write. Let’s just talk about what I’ve done and have left to do so I can get back to it.

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