We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “neurology

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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Process the data!

This is what raw EEG data looks like. Seriously, it’s a bunch of squiggles. However, we can make sense of it and we can even write some code to make sense of it in real-time so you can control things with your brain!!! <EVIL LAUGH>

It’s a process… that’s for sure. So you’re a scientist and you collect a ton of data, well now what? We’re talking about me of course. I did it, I collected a ton of data and now I need to do something useful with it. This is the part I wish I could skip over and get to the part where I get all the cool results, but I guess we’ve all got to start somewhere.

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Day 362: Experiment two

Just a giant case full of the equipment I borrowed from my university for experiments. Pretty sure the school’s office staff thing I was robbing the place though.

Well today is going to be a quick recap of my experiment yesterday. This will be just as much for me as it is for all of you. While I can’t go into the experiment details (since I’m working to publish this) I can give a pretty good overview like I did the last time around.

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Day 361: Accidental history

Impostor syndrome
Art by: xkcd

Ever wake up one morning and realize you’re exactly where you wanted to be. That you’re in a place you never even dared to dream you could reach because, well it was silly to think you could accomplish something like that. Dreams that big weren’t meant for people like you, so you didn’t even bother to think you could get there. Yet… here we are.

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Day 360: Second experiment

Computer

The computer I use to process all my data, even with this it takes FOREVER to finish processing.

Well tomorrow is my second experiment. To be clear, it’s technically the same experiment, just a second person, so maybe it would be better to call it trial two? In any case, while the last one went (mostly) well, there are a few things I’m changing to make this next one even better. Sometimes when you prep for an experiment, you don’t realize what you’re forgetting until you can’t do it, so we’re correcting that this time.

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Day 358: One small step

Dream big

Sometimes are points in life that you can clearly define as the before and the after. As a child sometimes those points are simple milestones growing up, starting a new school for example or moving to a new town. There is the before and the after. As you get older those points become few and far between. For example, you started a new job. Unless it’s your dream job, you don’t really think of it as one of these points and everything just blurs together. Thus the bar seems to get higher and higher as we age. Today I had one of those points.

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Day 357: Thoughts from the lab

Case

My giant very suspicious case full of equipment from my school lab.

Well today is a busy day! I’ve got a lot going on so hopefully by the time you read this I’ll have all the setup taken care of. Working in two labs seems like a fun and interesting way to do experiments and it is! It’s also a huge pain.

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Day 326: Review: The state of spinal cord research

Figure 2 from and yet it moves

Figure 2 from and yet it moves

Facilitation of stepping-like volitional oscillations using non-invasive transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation in SCI subject. (A) Position of the participant in the gravity-neutral apparatus. (B) Biphasic electrical stimulation was delivered using unique waveforms consisting of 0.3–1.0 ms bursts filled by 10 kHz frequency that were administered at 5–40 Hz. (C) EMG activity of right soleus (RSol), right tibialis anterior (RTA), right medial gastrocnemius (RMG), right hamstrings (RHam), right vastus lateralis (RVL), right rectus femoris (RRF) and angular displacement in the knee and hip joints of both legs during leg oscillations with a voluntary effort alone (Vol), stimulation at T11 (Stim), and Vol + Stim are shown. (D) Schematics demonstrating the approximate location of transcutaneous electrodes above the lumbosacral enlargement, in relation to the location of the motor pools based on Kendall et al. (1993) and Sharrard (1964).

Well it’s been two weeks (roughly) and my PI asked specifically that this week I do a review on the state of spinal cord research, with emphasis on the spinal cord stimulation work I’m doing. So this review is going to look slightly different, namely it has a rather long references section (15 total). If you find this research fascinating I recommend “And yet it moves” (reference 5). It’s long, but open access and worth the read. I’m a little bias though, my Co-PI is one of the authors. In any case, I had two weeks to write this, so hopefully it is a good dip into what we know about the spinal cord and a lot of what we don’t. Enjoy!

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Day 318: The why.

parts

With everything going on it’s been tough to write about just one topic. When I started 365 days, I started it with the intention of highlighting my struggles and trials through one full year of my PhD with the idea that I may (or may not) keep going for the duration of my PhD process. Then COVID hit, Black lives matter protests took off (finally), and I had the realization that I, like most people, am more than just my studies.

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Day 317: Mental health and you

neural symphony

I scream it loudly from the mountain tops, I suffer all the fucking time from mental health issues. I do it because staying silent doesn’t keep me from feeling them and it does nothing for others who are suffering. Yes, it’s embarrassing to talk about it because it feels like a taboo, or something you’re making up, but that’s why we need to talk about it and why you need to keep track of your own mental health.

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Day 316: Internships in the pandemic

Distance learning

For those of you not in academia, summertime means we get interns in the lab to learn about how research works in a real-life setting. We typically have them help with things that require basic skills, but lets them see how research really happens. This year, we are doing everything virtually thanks to COVID-19. This is a great thing because it really means we’re doing what we can to stop the spread while still giving students a chance to experience research.

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Day 315: Neural Engineering in a pandemic

pandemic PPE

For the past week or so my PI has been away, so I’ve had the chance to work on other projects from home. Unfortunately he returns this week so I’ve got to switch gears from protests, working from home, and undergrad mentoring back to experiments and experimental setup. As the senior student in the lab, I’ve got a lot of responsibilities.

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Day 310: Review – Interfacing with alpha motor neurons in spinal cord injury patients

Figure 1 from the paper showing EMG recordings and the transformation using deconvolution to motor neuron spike trains

Figure 1 from the paper showing EMG recordings and the transformation using deconvolution to motor neuron spike trains

Spatiotemporal spinal maps of ipsilateral a-MNs. (A) Experimental set-up for ankle plantar flexion. (B) HD-EMG is decomposed into a-MN spike trains using a convolutive blind-source separation technique. (C) The spinal output to generate the neural drive to muscles is estimated from the a-MN spike trains.

The world is on fire, we’re protesting for a future, but today I have my review paper due so instead of writing about my frustrations I’m going to share my review. Today we’re looking at the effects of trans-spinal direct current stimulation (tsDCS) on alpha motor neurons and how we can determine that effect using electromyography. It’s actually a very cool paper, the work is well done, and it’s open source so you can read it if you’re interested.

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Day 296: Review – Spinal Rhythm Generation by Step-Induced Feedback and Transcutaneous Posterior Root Stimulation in Complete Spinal Cord–Injured Individuals

Black and white diagram showing the front and back of a human with the the placement of electrodes over the lower abdominal area and separate electrodes over T11-T12 of the spinal cord a third image to the right shows the side of the spinal column with spinal cord to depict the location of the back electrodes with relation to the spinal cord

Black and white diagram showing the front and back of a human with the the placement of electrodes over the lower abdominal area and  separate electrodes over T11-T12 of the spinal cord a third image to the right shows the side of the spinal column with spinal cord to depict the location of the back electrodes with relation to the spinal cord

Transcutaneous posterior root stimulation: Paravertebral and abdominal skin electrode placement (this is just a portion of figure 1 of this paper.

Normally I’m somewhat excited to post these, but with everything going on you’ll have to pardon my lack of joy. However, it’s been two weeks so I need to review another paper so I’m sharing it here as well as sending my PI a copy. The study is a few years old, but it’s open access so you can read it if you’re interested. Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (TSS) is one part of my research in case you couldn’t tell from all the spinal cord and TSS studies and posts. I find it interesting and it gives me hope that we can help a whole lot of people living with spinal cord injury. Anyway give it a read and get out there and protest for a better world.

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Day 282: Review – Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation of the cervical cord modulates lumbar networks

Experimental Setup and tSCS electrode placement (A) H-reflexes were evoked via stimulation of the tibial nerve and recorded in the soleus muscle during a consistent background contraction of ≈5% peak muscle activity. The left leg was held static in an extended position, and stimulation to evoke the H-reflex was delivered with the left arm at 0°. (B) tSCS was delivered via two 2.5 cm round cathodic electrodes placed midline at C3-4 and C6-7 (cervical) or T11 and L1 (lumbar) spinous processes. Two 5 × 10 cm rectangular anodic electrodes were placed bilaterally over the iliac crests.

Experimental Setup and tSCS electrode placement (A) H-reflexes were evoked via stimulation of the tibial nerve and recorded in the soleus muscle during a consistent background contraction of ≈5% peak muscle activity. The left leg was held static in an extended position, and stimulation to evoke the H-reflex was delivered with the left arm at 0°. (B) tSCS was delivered via two 2.5 cm round cathodic electrodes placed midline at C3-4 and C6-7 (cervical) or T11 and L1 (lumbar) spinous processes. Two 5 × 10 cm rectangular anodic electrodes were placed bilaterally over the iliac crests.

Experimental Setup and tSCS electrode placement (A) H-reflexes were evoked via stimulation of the tibial nerve and recorded in the soleus muscle during a consistent background contraction of ≈5% peak muscle activity. The left leg was held static in an extended position, and stimulation to evoke the H-reflex was delivered with the left arm at 0°. (B) tSCS was delivered via two 2.5 cm round cathodic electrodes placed midline at C3-4 and C6-7 (cervical) or T11 and L1 (lumbar) spinous processes. Two 5 × 10 cm rectangular anodic electrodes were placed bilaterally over the iliac crests.

It’s that time again! My biweekly critical review paper is due for my PI. He gets a copy and so do all of you. This is a particularly interesting study that falls in line with a lot of research that I am doing, so it’s interesting to see how other groups are progressing. Overall I think this is a great study and while it is behind a paywall, I think I summed it up very well. The drawing they did (above) is awesome, especially for a scientific journal where we normally use simple line figures. Anyway, let’s get to it.

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Day 268: Review – Magnetospinography visualizes electrophysiological activity in the cervical spinal cord

Reconstructed currents of MSG from the cervical spondylotic myelopathy subject. There are two different sets of plots, the furthest left shows the electrophysiological recording taken from the epidural space and the other set shows the reconstructed currents using MSG. They agree fairly well.

Reconstructed currents of MSG from the cervical spondylotic myelopathy subject. There are two different sets of plots, the furthest left shows the electrophysiological recording taken from the epidural space and the other set shows the reconstructed currents using MSG. They agree fairly well.

This is the results of the cervical spondylotic myelopathy subject. The left graphs are the ascending spinal cord evoked potentials (this was electrophysiological recordings taken from the epidural space) by stimulation of the lower thoracic cord showing conduction block at the C4/5 disc level. The right graphs are the reconstructed currents at the midline of the cervical spinal canal (red) and 2 cm lateral (blue). The leading component (the first waveform in red) attenuated and disappeared through C4–6, and the trailing component (the second waveform in red) disappeared at C5/6. The perpendicular inflow components greatly attenuated at C4/5 (the second waveform in blue).

Another two weeks, another critical review. This time I was more critical than review, unlike the last one where I was blown away at the possibilities. Why was I more critical with this one? Well in my opinion, the authors took a baby step when they should’ve taken a leap. All that aside, it is an interesting study and one I hope has several follow up experiments. This one is open access as well, so have a read for yourself if you’re interested.

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Day 257: Tomorrow…

Sisyphus

Well we’re up against the wire now. Tomorrow is the due date for my paper and with it the video I am working on. Will I make it? How much work is left to do? Why am I talking in questions? Find out more… now…?

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Day 256: Two days left…

cookie monster

A live shot of me waiting for my data to finish processing

Well here we are and it’s… ♫ the finalllll count dowwwwwn!! ♫ My paper is due sunday at midnight and between the video I need to make, the data that still needs to be processed, and a shitty team mate who has done absolutely nothing to help, well I’ve got my work cut out for me.

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Day 255: The impossibility of complete knowledge

Magic-spells

Have you ever tried to learn something and you just can’t seem to get it to stick in your brain? That would be my life, well most of my adult life since I left the Marines. There is just so much knowledge in the world and wrapping my brain around even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of that knowledge seems to be an impossible task. So what is one to do?

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Day 254: Review – A Brain to Spine Interface for Transferring Artificial Sensory Information

Fig.1 of paper showing drawing of implanted electrodes and the two experimental setups for the rat.

Fig.1 of paper showing drawing of implanted electrodes and the two experimental setups for the rat.

Experimental setup for artificial sensory discrimination using DCS and brain-to-spine interface. (a) Rats were implanted with recording electrodes in motor cortex (M1), somatosensory cortex (S1) and striatum (STR) and dorsal column stimulating electrodes in the thoracic epidural space.  (b) Behavioral setup for artificial sensory discrimination using DCS (c) Setup for the brain-to-spine interface consisted of two modified aperture width tactile discrimination boxes.

If you ever were to read one of my review papers, this one’s for you. It’s so awesome and falls in line fairly closely to the things I want to accomplish, albeit going a different route to get there. I’m super excited to share this with all of you and I hope I did the study justice in my summation and while I admit, I had far too much enthusiasm with this one, it shouldn’t take away from just how amazing this is, see for yourself! The study is open access too, so if you want to know more details, you can go take a look!

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Day 253: A race to the finish

finish line

Well still quite a bit of work to do and some of it was frustrating, but here we are. So let’s run through what I’ve got left to do before the end of the term (ALREADY?!) and talk about the next few posts since I have somewhat of a plan… for once.

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Day 252: Dead…line

dead...line

Today is the day, my group presentation is due. Is it done? Well… sort of? Okay not quite, but we’re getting there. My group member still sucks, but since I yelled at him (in a professional manner of course), he’s gotten a little better and has been more responsive, so what’s the hold up? What a great question, let me explain.

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Day 251: Deadline tomorrow

deadline

Well the apocalypse can’t stop the gears of education. Tomorrow is our final presentation for the class I am in, so there is work to be done and expectation maximization will come another day. For now let’s give a quick rundown of what I’m working on.

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Day 250: Maximum Likelihood Estimation

probability

If we are going to talk about expectation maximization (now that I’m done complaining for a bit), we are going to have to introduce the idea of maximum likelihood. It’s going to be very easy to introduce, but it is a very powerful tool in estimating the state of something. Of course, it takes understanding a little bit of statistics, but trust me, if I can understand it, so can you.

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Day 249: A stern email later…

angry

Photo of me responding to his email …

I don’t want to jinx it, I really don’t, but I have an update on my group member situation and it isn’t completely awful! I mean, I’m still doing all the work and blah, blah, blah, but I’ve got an interesting story and I hope that things will be better now.

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Day 248: A Virtual Conference

background

Every zoom meeting I try to break my PI and get him to laugh, this was my last attempt, still nothing… my work continues.

This will be my first conference since the pandemic and it will be a virtual one. To be completely honest, it wasn’t until yesterday that I was reminded we had one today. It’s a little bit different from our normal routine and I think that is what is throwing me off.
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Day 247: The Kalman filter – Part 2

Kalman filter estimate

The Kalman filter converges on the optimal state estimate using noisy measurements and a model that we create.

Okay I lied, I think we can do a better job explaining the Kalman filter, more importantly I have a fun little demo I can share with everyone. It’s not mine, but I like it a lot and it will give you a feel for what the kalman filter does. So let’s get started!
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Day 246: The Kalman filter

We have 3-dimensions here even though it is a 2 dimensional problem. the third dimension is time, this way we can see the path over the course of the recorded time. Notice there are no units, becuase in this case we were working with synthetic data so the units were meaningless and I did not include them.

We have 3-dimensions here even though it is a 2 dimensional problem. the third dimension is time, this way we can see the path over the course of the recorded time. Notice there are no units, becuase in this case we were working with synthetic data so the units were meaningless and I did not include them.

This is just one application for the Kalman filter, I estimated a two dimensional position using a random walk model. We have 3-dimensions here even though it is a 2 dimensional problem, the third dimension is time. This way we can see the path over the course of the recorded time. Notice there are no units, becuase in this case we were working with synthetic data so the units were meaningless and I did not include them.

Since we’ve been talking a lot about it, I thought it might be a good idea to formally introduce the Kalman filter. This will be a semi-high level introduction (like my knowing your spinal cord series), but at the end of it you should have a relatively good feel for what a Kalman filter is.
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Day 245: Fine, I’ll do it myself.

Thanos - I'll do it myself

I will not fail this class becuase of a shitty team member. I will not allow it, I’ve put too much effort and time into this class to do poorly at the last minute because my team member can’t be bothered to do the job he agreed to do. I suppose, this was… inevitable

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Day 244: The end of the term!?

end of term

Okay, where the hell did that come from?! It’s almost the end of the school term. WHAT THE HELL!? It feels like we just got started, but my instructor just sent out the final assignment, which is due the last week of school… next week. I’m sort of freaking out right now.

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