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Posts tagged “neuroscience

Success! 1 of 10 dissertation experiments

What a day… I’m so exhausted. It’s been such an overwhelming amount of work, but it’s over and that’s one of the ten experiments I need (for the first phase of my dissertation anyway) done. The data collection went smooth, I love the new equipment, and I only ran into what appears to be one problem with the recording, but I’m hoping it wasn’t a real issue. So quick recap of how it went and then I get to remind everyone, and myself, that I get to enjoy doing it all again tomorrow!

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The first equipment test!

It’s been literally months in the making, but we finally have the equipment I need to start my dissertation and even though it’s the weekend, I’m making a special trip to campus (it’s been like a month since I’ve been there) to test out the equipment and get things ready for my first set of dissertation experiments! I’m hoping things go smoothly so that I can get the data needed, but as with all things, some assembly is required.

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The last day of summer internship

Today marks the big day! It’s the last day of the summer internship at the hospital and the two individuals we got to work with over the summer are about to present their final work. It is going to be a busy day for everyone involved, myself included. Since I haven’t got to talk about our interns this year, I thought it would be great to go over some of the stuff we did with them.

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Return of the experiment gremlins

Maybe the moon was not in the correct spot. Maybe the earth’s tilt was not optimal. Maybe we should’ve just called it a day. But for whatever reason, anything that could go wrong, did. We do our best to prep for these kind of events, but some days, nothing goes right. Today was one of those days and as frustrating as it can be for the experimenter, I’m sure our participant wasn’t thrilled about the constant problems either.

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A wait off

See what I did there, again? Yesterday I lamented that I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting, but Godot never seemed to show up. Wait wrong story. But seriously, I have been waiting months for equipment so I could start my dissertation data collection. THE final thing. I can’t begin to put into words how frustrating this whole process is, I’m ready to do something, like now! I want to do it, the will is there, but the equipment isn’t. So what to do, but wait and wait some more, unless…

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Presentation work

Despite all the stuff that’s been going on the past few days, I’ve been tasked with making a video for school side of the two conferences I need to attend. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s some extra work involved and there’s a bit of a timing issue. No one said doing all this at once would be easy. Even with all the stuff going on, we’ve got work to do.

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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.

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The mechanisms of depression

Art by the incredibly talented DestinyBlue

In news that will surprise almost zero depressed people, we are once again adjusting our thought process on what causes depression. But in an effort to stave off bad advice, people telling you to stop taking your medication, and just general confusion, let’s do what we do best and talk it out. First, let’s be clear, don’t stop taking your meds, it’s never a good idea, I promise, 10 out of 10 times it’s a bad idea unless you’ve spoken with a doctor or are having serious side effects. So let’s talk about the latest news, shall we?

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Conference update!

Vector illustration of a person speaking to a large crowd of people
Vector illustration of a person speaking to a large crowd of people

A few weeks ago I submitted an abstract to a conference that’s coming up. It’s an internally run conference that the hospital puts on every year for us to share our work with other labs. A lot of the stuff we do in the hospital is similar across labs so doing stuff like this helps everyone explore different collaborations that could be done or work that compliments other work. There’s a few things that need to happen now that I’ve been selected and there’s not a lot of time to do it, but what else is new?

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The first glimpse!

woman standing on broken stairs leading up to sky in the distance
woman standing on broken stairs leading up to sky in the distance

Well I don’t want to say we have something… but we have something! Okay, so I guess we should back up a little bit. A few days ago we collected some data using an idea I had, my “big idea.” This was the first time we did this experiment the way I really wanted to do it, but not the first experiment, so we had a really good shot of getting some good data. Shortly after we finished the experiment I did some quick checks and we did, in fact, have data. Now the question was, what did it all mean?

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Data rush

Okay well I don’t know how successful our experiment was… yet. I know we have data, which was the first hurdle, but does that data tell us anything? Will we unlock the deepest secrets of the human body (almost certainly not, but we can dream), or will we just end up with a whole lot of nothing. That’s the problem with trying something for the first time, you could have something, or you could have nothing and it’s a lot of work before you find out the answer.

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Small beginnings

Tree seen at night, in the dark, with lots of stars in the background and light around the tree.

Sometimes big things have small beginnings. Honestly I’m not even sure how to talk about it vaguely, but I’m going to give it my best shot. The short version is that I officially have my first dataset for an idea I had almost a year ago now, a “big idea” as it were. I’m confident that this will work, I haven’t had a chance to see what we got, but I did make a few initial checks to ensure everything was collecting correctly. Unfortunately, despite how monumental this feels for me, I can’t explain what we have… yet.

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New paper update

Okay, since we’re starting to wrap up the latest paper, I need to give it a nickname. I think we’ll just call it, “dual paper” since I can’t think of anything better and that is secret enough for me. Eventually I’m just going to have to start using letters of the alphabet if this keeps up. So what is dual paper you may ask? Well…

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DARPA Risers 2022

Well it’s even more official! I’ve been selected as a 2022 DARPA Riser and I’ve gotten more details on the event. Today I figure it’s a good time to talk about the process as I know it and where we are in that process. Mostly because the internet had very little on the topic and because I am very excited to be part of the selection. I also now can view my fellow DARPA Risers, which has been more than just a little humbling.

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Effects of transcutaneous spinal stimulation on spatiotemporal cortical activation patterns

The list of clusters of activation we found in the brain due to transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS)

It’s official! My latest paper, what I’ve been calling “last paper” is now typeset and I can share my fancy videos better. I’m excited that this is finally here and since I gave a good overview of the paper (here) today I’ll discuss a bit more about why this paper was important and why the dataset was such a pain, both of those I had to shorten due to the length of the post.

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A big breakthrough!

Okay I’m trying to remain calm because nothing is set in stone yet. However, I’m very excited because as of yesterday anyway we have the first person who is eligible for the experiment I proposed using what I call, “big idea.” Now for those of you who have been following along, this may be confusing because I already have several datasets using this new thing I’ve created, but this is a little different. Okay a lot different and I’ll explain why.

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Another response letter

There’s a surprise paper I haven’t talked about much. Mostly because I’m “only” second author on it, but also because as I keep mentioning things are hectic. However, we’re almost a full six months into the year and I currently have three papers (two first author, one second author) to my name and this will be number four! It’s been a good year for me, but we’re not done yet! Today I’m going to once again talk about response letters.

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Summer experiments

With summer here in pretty much full swing, we are about to get started on a bunch of new experiments. There’s a lot of things coming that will make life slightly harder, so in an effort to keep track of my progress between now and the big graduation day (soon… hopefully), let’s look at what I’ve got going on this summer. Things I need to do, things I “get” to do, and things that I can pawn off on others to do *wink.*

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The hard road

Is doing something an easier way necessarily worse than doing it a hard way? I mean with a lot of things in life you get out what you put in. If you work hard enough you could be an olympic athlete, a world class musician, dancer, artist. But even in those cases, is it hard work, or consistant work that makes the difference? I’m not sure one way or the other, but I’ve typically opted for the hard way. It’s lead to mixed results, but typically I don’t mind putting in the extra effort if it means that I will have a good outcome.

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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?

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Data mountain

Well the week is over and I’ve barely been able to drag myself out of bed it’s been so exhausting. Unfortunately, we’re doing it all again next week too, so it’s not over yet. But the first of two test experiments are done, I say test because these don’t actually count toward our original set of experiments we’re doing later this summer. Meaning there’s going to be a lot of work coming my way, fun times.

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More on experimental prep

I kind of wish my equipment looked this cool…

Since we have a rather large and cumbersome set of experiments happening it’s my job to make sure they go off without too much trouble. I say too much trouble because no matter how much you plan, test, and retest, something will go wrong. Heck it may not even be wrong on our end, it may be wrong on someone else’s side, but that’s why we plan. So once again I’m talking about how we prep for our experiments.

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Adventures in experimental design

When did people start trusting me with experimental design? I have no idea, but here we are and I’m helping come up with a series of experiments we will be doing in roughly one week… seven days. So between now and then, we have a lot of things to figure out. We have a rough idea about what will happen, but there are a lot of moving parts and it turns out we are probably missing a few things so we’re going to have to get creative if we really want to get to the bottom of things… fun times for all!

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Whatever it takes

Well, yesterday happened. If you’ve been following around for awhile the last time I didn’t write a post we were dealing with apocalyptic weather (as in no power bad). So I think after years of being consistent, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought something bad had happened. In reality, there was just a mountain of work and no time to relax. I don’t like pushing myself like I had to yesterday, but it was for a good cause or at least I think so, or I wouldn’t have done it.

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The mysterious data

I sometimes miss the days when the answers were in the back of the book. At this point I would take even just having answers that are semi related to the questions I’m trying to work out. Being a researcher is a double edged sword. On one side, for a brief moment in history you will know something that no other person in the world knows. On the other, how do you know that it’s correct? Questioning your results is an important part of research and right now, there’s more questions than answers.

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Mounting pressure

After yesterday’s win, you would think things would be smooth sailing, but alas that isn’t in the cards! I mean yesterday’s good news still applies thankfully, but wow did I wake up to a flurry of emails and now a mountain of work that all needs to be addressed all at the same time. Wait, is there an echo in here? I feel like we’ve done this before…

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A big result

night scene showing young boy with a little moon in his hands sitting on meadow done digitally
night scene showing young boy with a little moon in his hands sitting on meadow done digitally

I’m stepping away from my planned sharing of the notes from my lecture to bring breaking news! For those who don’t understand what’s going on, a while ago I had an idea, a “big idea” that I’m convinced will be the thing I’m known for… if it works. And our first attempt was not great. In fact, we got absolutely nothing. The second and third attempts however we were ready and it looked like we had something. The question is what did we have?

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From imagination to reality

It’s amazing what a good night of sleep will do for a person. Hopital-PI often has what he calls his “shower ideas” and frankly, my “big idea” was also a shower idea, but I find that the best ideas come to me when you’re not even thinking about them. When you step away from a problem and focus on something else, your brain just does something magical and works out the solution without you even realizing it, sometimes anyway.

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A dissertation dilemma

Okay, since I’m still waiting on my new and fancy toys to arrive for my dissertation I’ve been debating about going through the whole thing once again using the equipment I already have access to. Since there’s a limited amount of time I may just have to power through and go ahead with data collection using the old equipment, but it’s still anyone’s guess if I’ll do that because frankly I’m not sure it will be worth it. Since it’s up in the air, I figure I can write out my thought process and hopefully figure it out one way or the other.

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Semi-final paper edits

Okay, with all the “big” things happening the past few days I really need to switch gears and focus on the other major deadline I’ve got coming up and that’s the response to “last paper,” which is still not due for another 2-3 weeks I believe so I still have time, but it’s not just me that needs to sign off on it, it’s all my collaborators and that is the problem. Mostly because last paper took so long in part due to disagreements within our group.

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The big payoff

Yesterday I finally had the chance to get not one, but two new datasets! Those datasets were for a project I’m calling “big idea.” In my mind, it will change the way a lot of things are done, advance science, and I even joked with hospital-PI that I would need to retire after we publish because I’ll never do anything better. I have a lot of hope for big idea, but the first dataset we got was a fail, so the question was, what happened and did we fix it?

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The big data haul

It’s been one hell of a week and it’s only Monday. Experiment days are always hard, but when you’re doing multiple experiments in one day in, let’s say not so ideal situations, it can be hard. But we’ve made it out the other side! Unfortunately, just because the experiment is over, doesn’t mean things get any easier. At least in this case, because now comes the hard part.

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Another big experiment!

Things have been off to a rocky start for my “big idea” there’s a lot of moving parts, people to coordinate with, and things to manage. It’s no surprise things haven’t gone well since we started trying to get this project off the ground, but we’re still trying and that has to count for something… right? As it turns out, we may have lucked out this next week!

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New equipment

Things are looking up! After last weeks attempt at collecting data for my PhD, I realized how important it would be for the new equipment I requested to be ordered and in my hands the next time I’m collecting data. Unfortunately there’s a process to getting new equipment and despite having funding for my project, there is no direct way to spend the money. Instead there is a winding path you need to follow in order to get equipment in a research lab.

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The next big experiment

Well things are moving fast around here, like I predicted they would this year. Of course, things are currently going better than I had hoped, but that could change. Last week was a busy one and next week will be no different, but next week is a particularly big week, because I’m going to be doing another experiment for a somewhat different project. Yep, another “big idea” experiment is coming.

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Experiment prep

Tomorrow is my first experiment! To get ready I have a few loose ends to tie up before the big day. Mostly I just need to write everything out, make a list of items I need to set up, organize a few things, the stuff no one thinks about when they head off to an experiment. Tomorrow is going to be bumpy, but the first time always is, so best to be prepared.

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The first dissertation experiment

One of my favorite photos I took years ago of my labmate gelling a participant for an experiment. The syringe holds a conductive gel, the needle is blunt tip so it doesn’t hurt or puncture the skin. The gel bridges the air gap between the scalp and cap because hair gets in the way.

It had to happen eventually! But not today, this Friday however will mark the first of several experiments I will be undertaking in the (currently) slow march to my PhD. In an effort to help people understand that experiments aren’t just something that happens at the scheduled time, let’s take a look behind the scenes at what I need to do between now and Friday to get ready. It’s going to be a looong week.

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The mental health stigma

You don’t look depressed. Chances are if you struggle with depression you’ve heard that once or twice, or dozens of times on a seemingly never ending loop. If you have a broken bone you can be diagnosed via an x-ray or CT. If you have cancer, there are blood tests or MRI scans that can catch it. If you get sick, rapid tests or PCR will tell you if it’s COVID. But how do you diagnose depression?

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The lab brain drain

Today was another proposal defense! No, not mine thankfully, but one of my labmates who’s been in the lab for some time now. As the term is coming to a close, I think a lot of us are in the proposal defense phase, which means things will be changing dramatically in a year or so for the lab. It made me realize that there was a rather large gap between those of us finishing and the new members, which means big changes once we graduate.

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The cost of research

I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been tasked with gathering quotes for new equipment. It’s not even just with the hospital side of things either, the school side has suddenly asked me for quotes as well. I understand the logic of having gather the quotes like this, after all it’s a huge time sink, but I’ve learned a lot over the past month or so from dealing with all this and that is research isn’t cheap.

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The return of last paper

If you love something set it free, if it comes back it was meant to be. What a bunch of garbage. Well maybe just in this case. I’ve slowly gotten out from under the weight of not one, but four different first author journal papers I’ve been working on. Three of the four are published (with one going live any day now… I think?! That should’ve happened a week ago…), but one paper, last paper, has been a struggle all its own and now it’s back with a vengeance.

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3 aims, 2 experiments, 1 year

It’s now official, I have a rough timeline for everything I want to do and I’ve got the greenlight from my committee that the work I propose to do will be enough to earn my PhD. I’ve spent the past day trying to plan out the rough outline of what the next year will look like in context with all the other work I will be doing and it will be busy!

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The last project

Today was my proposal defense day and I would like to say it went well. I would like to. Kidding, I think things went okay. I’ll leave that to the handful of people who read my blog regularly to judge. My committee members all thought the work was interesting and my plan of attack was good, so now the real work begins. It’s the last project before I get my PhD.

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The main event

Well tomorrow is D-day, proposal defense day that is. Technically there will be one more defense day after that, my actual PhD defense. The difference being, when that’s all done I’ll have a piece of paper to show for my efforts. That won’t come until next year… hopefully. But in the meantime, tomorrow is the (other) big day and I’m getting just a touch nervous! After all, it’s only the next year or so of my life I’m laying out for my committee members, what could go wrong?

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An ounce of preparation

What a week. It’s only Wednesday and it feels like it’s just never going to end. There are three major events coming up this week, meaning I will be working this weekend unfortunately, but at least I made it through the day. Tomorrow will be a major event for me, dare I say bigger than my proposal defense just two days away.

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The return of big idea

I had hoped to discuss robot paper today, but something more exciting has happened so today we’re talking about the “big idea’ I had a while back. It feels like it’s been forever since I had the idea, but things were moving slowly lately so we’ve had to wait. I’m happy to say the wait is finally over! If all goes well, by the end of the week I’ll have the first dataset from big idea and I am very excited!

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The proposal defense date

Single business person untangling giant rope

Okay not going to lie I had a minor freakout the past few days. One of my committee members wasn’t responding to my emails so I could not schedule my proposal defense. Last night out of the blue, reality smacked me in the face and it occurred to me that next week was the first week I was trying to schedule and time was running out. People are busy and I didn’t want any of the PI’s to have a conflict. But it all worked out…

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New and old projects

It’s finally my chance to put my own spin on the stuff coming out of the hospital lab and I’m incredibly excited about what is coming. Unfortunately I can’t talk about it! However, I’m hopeful that this year will be an excellent year for me with regards to the research I’m doing. Things are slowly falling into place and while we’re still at the beginning, things are looking bright.

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The big rush

A while ago I had an idea, a “big idea,” but the second I had that idea the clock was ticking. Because ideas are not that unique. There is a gap in research and we try to fill that gap when we see it. I noticed a gap and because I noticed it, there’s no reason others won’t notice it as well. Now we’re in an unseen race to publish and there’s still some speed bumps in the way that are causing some issues. I’m hopeful we can get there first, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we had competition.

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The other presentation

With just a few days to work on the project, I was asked to present the data we’ve recently finished collecting at work. The presentation will happen Monday, as in three days away Monday. So between now and then, I need to process the data, make some figures (so many figures), and generally draw some sort of conclusions based on the work.

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