We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “neurology

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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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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