First Stop: Amsterdam

August 21: Day 1

Today was our first day in Amsterdam and boy did we see a lot! We landed in the city around 5:30 am and did not stop moving for long until crashing into bed that night. We started off by going to a family friend’s to drop off our luggage and freshen up. Then we headed to the Albert Cupmarkyt, to see the market being set up and opened for the day. Since we had our large backpacking backpacks on us still, we went to the hostel to drop off the packs.

From here we started out our adventure for the day: walking the entire city. James’ dad had informed us that the best way to beat jet-leg was to walk, which we found to be true. Both of us have switched over to the time zone pretty easily. I’m just going to list everything we saw and then describe them a bit.

  • Albert Cupmarkyt: the market where the locals shop
  • Bejinhof: this is a 14th century convent where we think a Eucharistic miracle occurred (the sign was in Dutch)

  • Centraal Station: The main transit station in the heart of the city. All the city is wrapped around it.

  • St. Nicholas Basilica: a basilica that was a nice retreat from the chaos of central Amsterdam; it is right across from the Centraal Station
  • Dam Square: this is one of the main squares in Amsterdam, I would liken it to Times Square: crowded, street performers, and probably pickpocketers.

  • New Church: this was on Dam Square, it is a Catholic church that has been turned into a museum and cheesy store
  • Blue Amsterdam: This was probably my favorite stop of the day. It was a restaurant shop located at the top of a tower near Spui Square. We sat here for an hour enjoying coffee, tea, and one of the best views of the city.

  • Mint Tower: right near Blue Amsterdam, this tower is famous among Potheads for being built in the year 1620 (4:20 pm)
  • Floating Flower Market: The different stores stand on floating platforms and have many tulips, both live and wooden!
  • Nine Streets: An area of shops and restaurants that was close to our hostel that was definetly the arts area of Amsterdam.
  • Skinny Bridge: This is the one of the oldest bridges in the city and I was surprised to find that it was a drawbridge.

Besides seeing all of these highlights, we just got to experience Amsterdam. As a local told us the best way to see it is by walking through the streets and walking along the canals, which we surely did. We also got to to marvel at the vast transit system Amsterdam has. They have high speed metros, trains, double trams, trams, busses, and ferries. We rode on all of them except the busses. I think our biggest surprise was getting on the double tram and finding a man working at a full-size desk on it!

August 22: Day 2

Today was a bit less chaotic than yesterday. We were very appreciative of a good night’s sleep and made an effort to pace ourselves more today, since we almost fell asleep at dinner yesterday. We got to enjoy a hot breakfast at the hostel, including hot drinks to help us wake up.

Today was museum day. We started off with an early morning to Anne Frank House, which brought her story to life. We took an audio tour through the building, which read different bits of her diary aloud. The moment I walked into Anne’s room I knew it was her room before I had seen a sign or heard the guide tell me.

After leaving the Anne Frank house, we took the tram to Vondelpark for a walk and picnic. We picked up sandwiches and carrots at the grocery on our way over. The park is very large and was full of people. We ate lunch under the shade of a tree near a splash pool where children were playing. We found the most magical tree, which reached out over the water. We sat in its boughs for a good rest,enjoying the tranquility of the park.

The Rijksmuseum has a large collection of art from many centuries and includes many famous artists. We saw work from Goya, Van Gogh, and Remembrandt, but our favorite pieces were not from the famous of the famous. We also walked around the museum gardens, but they were nothing compared to Vondelpark. We did see a movie being shot though.

We tried stroopwaffels after the museum. I found them to be very sweet, but James liked them a lot. We spent the evening hanging out at the hostel, talking with the other visitors and the workers there. We had the chance to eat dinner with them as well and found ourselves switching between 3 different languages! We both really enjoyed just getting to sit and talk with people, swapping cultures and stories over Indian food.

That night we went on a canal boat tour, which allowed us to see parts of Amsterdam we hadn’t seen on the great walking “tour”. All the houses have hooks on them, so that they can lower furniture out of the windows when moving instead of taking them through the house because it is so narrow. The tour was in an old canal boat and was a great way to spend our last night in the city.

A Stop in Columbus, Ohio

I had the chance to spend a week visiting the home folk before I head out on my next adventure. Besides seeing family, I got to see all the new things happening around Columbus.

There’s a new farmer’s market in Dublin, Ohio in “New Town”, or Bridgepark. The area is very cool and has the feel of being downtown, while being located in the suburbs. There are restaurants, shops, and a favorite bar called Pins Mechanical and 16-Bit arcade, where you can find duck bowling and old time video game machines. The market has a great mix of vegetable, pastries, and all sorts of other treasures!

A Day as a Tourist Downtown

I got to spend one day as a tourist in my hometown, walking all throughout downtown. We saw the new areas along the Scioto River and visited the revitalized Short North district.

I got a chance to ride the electric autonomous shuttle that is being tested along the Scioto. The shuttle is small, but functioned well. There is a similar shuttle that will be going into a local neighborhood that is a food desert to help with access to services.

The entire effort is being coordinated by Smart Columbus, which is helping oversee the transportation grant that Columbus recently won. They are the organization that brought the shuttle we rode in to Columbus. They are also bringing the digital boards pictured above to Columbus City streets. These boards can help you find restaurants, things to do, and even a place to sleep if you are facing homelessness.

The walk along the Scioto River (near COSI) has brought a lot of new green space to Columbus. There is a music trail with many different percussion instruments, a playground, and benches and swings.

The Short North has many new shops and restaurants that take advantage of its central location on High Street. There are food halls, boutique stores, and a new candy shop called Rocket Fizz. Some of the original shops are still there like Big Fun, a store that is more action figure museum than shop.

That night we went on an Uptown Ghost tour in my hometown of Westerville. We were sad to find out that the ghost stories were not very factual and did not share some of the well known stories of hauntings. Hopefully in the future there is a tour that can tell the history of a town that was once the center of the prohibition movement and people passed through on their way to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

Adventures in Minnesota: My Last Weekend

Thursday

My seminar group went to a place called Can Can Wonderland on Thursday night. There is a putt-putt course there where every hole was designed by a different artist. There are also a bunch of video game machines from different eras. The oldest of them were only mechanically powered (the Themed Entertainment Association at ND would’ve loved it)! We didn’t get to putt-putt like we had planned because we got there at 8 pm and there was an hour weight and after 9 pm it was 21 over only. But we played a lot of the video games, explored the place, and got some treats!

Friday

After work today I went with a friend to Minnehaha falls to see it before I left the city. Everyone that I had run into said that I had to visit the Falls, so I was expecting them to be very large. We took the train to the station that was directly across from the park. I had come prepared to hike and enjoy being in nature. It took us five minutes to walk to the falls. If anyone is from Ohio, I would liken it a bit to Old Man’s cave; the area is well-traveled and easy for anyone to visit. The falls were pretty, but my favorite part is an area where you could wade in the creek. The water was clear and cold. If I had known you could I would have gone swimming, but instead we just walked through the water.

Saturday

Visiting the Basilica of St. Mary, the oldest Basilica in the US

Saturday was my last great tour of the city. I started at the Basilica of St. Mary and ended at the MIA. I left the dorm before 9 am and took the bus to the Basilica, which was very dark on a Saturday morning. The architecture was pretty, but I prefer the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame.

The inside of the basilica

The next stop was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which is a collaboration between the Walker Art Museum and the City. It had a wide variety of sculptures and was very fun to walk through. One of my personal favorites was a collection of beams with a swing that moves with the vibration of the beams. Two of the most famous sculptures in the garden is a cherry on a spoon that acts as a fountain ( the water flows from the stem) and a blue rooster on a white box. I don’t know why they are so iconic. The Walker Art Museum was free (first saturday of the month), so I popped through it and saw some of the exhibits. It think my favorite wall was one of all types of different soup cans. A lot of the exhibits made you stop and think for a long time. I probably could’ve spent a lot more time there, but I wanted to continue my journey.

A sculpture garden
where dogs may walk and kids may play
A silent bell swings as the neighbors ring
A bunny forever still among the flowers
A room with a scholar forever thinking
A collection of still beams to teach of dynamics
Overall, a blue rooster stands guard
to say Cock-a-doodle-doo at dawn

A mile walk along Hennepin Avenue, with a short stop at Sebastian Joe’s for iced tea, brought me to an art fair that was happening in Uptown (near the Chain of Lakes). It was one of the largest art shows I had been to and I walked around it for hours. There was one artist who was making pictures out of old computer boards and microchips. Every ten stands or so there was a collection of food trucks too. At the very end of the main row, people were passing out free food and samples. I got a box of pasta, multiple bags of pretzels, and even Haribo gummy bears! Inside the square they had allowed local children to sell their artisan goods as well; these were much more reasonably priced! At this point I was pretty wiped out, so I took the bus down to the MIA (Minneapolis Institute of Art). Across from the stop I saw a place that sold pizza by the slice, so I grabbed a chicken-parmesan stromboli-like thing. I didn’t last long at the MIA; it was much larger than I expected. After only half-an-hour and getting very lost, I caught a bus back to campus to rest from my adventure for the rest of the day.

Week 8: Week of July 22 & Week 9: Week of July 29

Week 8

Brains! That was the excitement of these weeks. I started working on Plan B: Myelin Maps. One day this week I spent all day reading over 15 papers on myelin maps, so that we could learn how to create the myelin maps based off of other studies. We decided to go with the method laid out in Glasser and Essen 2011 where they create the myelin map by taking the ration between T1 and T2 anatomical scans.

This week I also started working hard core on my final poster and abstract. I worked on designing figures for my poster and finished my final abstract. I also had a chance to finally do some statistical work on the results of my behavioral study. Surprisingly we were able to get significant results with only four subjects! I prepared the Harmonic-Inharmonic Test to interface with the MRI. The code has to be able to receive the trigger that the scanner is started, so that they are synced. Also, the test has to be able to receive indications from a button box that the subject can use in the scanner instead of the keyboard interface that it was programmed with initially.

Average myelin maps for 10 different subjects. The highly myelinated regions are purple.

Week 9

One of the most exciting things this week was we got to check that the test software I built interfaces correctly with the scanner. We went to the scanner one night and loaded the software. We initially didn’t think the button interface was working, then we realized we forgot to plug in the button box! After weeks of work, it was awesome to see my interface working with the scanner and to hear the sounds coming out of the MRI-compatible headphones! That night we also built the scanning sequence, which is the directive for the computer on how to run the fMRI for our study.

We also had another researcher in the field,Bill Whitmer, visit and give a guest lecture one of the days. He talked about psychophysical approaches to hearing aid fittings, specifically how to correctly set the appropriate gain for a hearing aid user. The goal of their research was to get the patients more focused and engaged in the fitting of their own hearing aids. This was a good continuation of a thesis defense we had gone to the week before where the defender had talked about allowing patients to fit themselves.

From the meeting that we had with Chris Plack a few weeks ago and talking with Andrew, we have decided that we need a measurement of the pitch salience of each of the conditions before we continue on with the project. As a result, I spent the later parts of this week adapting an old code to use our stimuli in a melody task. The goal of the melody discrimination task is to determine a measure of the pitch salience of both the harmonic and inharmonic sounds before furthering testing with the Harmonic-Inharmonic tones. To allow for the direct comparison of the results of both tests, the harmonic and inharmonic tone complexes are created using the exact same function as in the Harmonic-Inharmonic Test. The f0s cover a larger frequency range (one octave) to make the melody task detectable.

My birthday cake that Anoo made me for the lab July birthdays celebration.

Another fun thing in the lab this week was that we celebrated all the July birthdays on the first day of August :). Every birthday girl or boy got their dessert of choice; Urie had a strawberry pie, Coral had vegan chocolate chip cookies, and I had a vanilla cake with lemon frosting. Everyone sang happy birthday to us at once and we were laughing so hard as they just called out our names at once and turned it into a jumble. It was the third birthday cake I have gotten to have this summer!

Week 7: Week of July 15

This week found me doing a lot of code work for another post doc in my lab for a side project. A post doc in our lab is working on a large multi-side study, which means coordinating software and making sure that everyone runs the experiments the exact same way. Working on this project gave me a chance to work on figuring out ways to sort multiple different types of data. I had to use algorithms to compare springs of words and build another code that could sort subjects based on information from a database.

Another hearing scientist from England, Chris Plack, came to visit our lab on Monday. He gave a long lecture explaining a lot of the various projects he has been working on in the past few years. We went to a lab lunch and then my team had a chance to meet with him to discuss our current project.

This week we also decided that we did not have enough time to get subjects in the scanner between the 3T malfunctioning and the fact that there were only a few weeks left in the summer (only two weeks till posters are due!). So now we are coming up with a plan B, so that I have results to put on my poster.

Finding Laura Ingalls

A Modern Prairie Girl

Lake Pepin: A House in the Big Woods

My first Little House site of the summer was Pepin, Wisconsin where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born. Seven miles outside of town sits the Laura Ingalls Wayside where there is a mock up of the Ingalls cabin located on the exact site where the Ingalls property was. There’s a lot less trees than when it was the Big Woods. The door on the cabin is locked with a latch string, as described in Little House on the Prairie. Inside the cabin there is a large picnic table hewed out of wood that would be good for a picnic lunch if I ever returned. There is a board along the bedroom wall with information on the lineage of both Charles (Pa) and Caroline (Ma). Half of the house is split into two rooms: the bedroom and the pantry.

The town of Pepin is not very big. There is a three room museum on Laura and the founding of Pepin. There are a few restaurants in town to eat at and the view of the lake is great on a blue day. If anyone ever comes to visit, I would not recommend more than a morning in Pepin unless you have a boat. There are multiple towns around Lake Pepin and those could surely turn it into a day. I would recommend visiting Stockholm, which is just the town over. They have a saying there: “Make Stockholm weird again.” There are plenty of little artsy places, fun shoppes, and a few great places to get baked goods. If you’re in the area you definitely need to stop in this cute down and explore!

Walnut Grove: On the Banks of Plum Creek

The trip to Walnut Grove has been a long awaited adventure. Even before I arrived in Minnesota, I was planning on coming here one weekend with James’ family. Some of James’ mom’s side of the family is from here, which made the trip even more interesting. The town is even smaller than Pepin from what I saw of it. Yet, every year the town puts on the Little House Pageant and attracts between 500-1000 spectators for every show.

The Little House museum here is much larger than the one in Pepin and is spread out between multiple buildings. You start in the gift shop where you can buy all sorts of pioneer paraphernalia, Little House books, and of course bonnets and dresses. I got the Little House Cookbook to use in the future. There is one building in the museum that is strictly dedicated to the Ingalls family. Half of the building explains their journeys and really gets into the history behind Laura’s time in Walnut Grove. They even have some of Laura’s old things there! The other half of the building is for the fans of the well-known Little House on the Prairie TV show. There is all sorts of collectors items, autographs from the cast, and pictures from the set.

There is a mock chapel that would have been similar to the one Pa helped buy the bell for. Inside of it there are a few pews and pump organs, one of which even works. There is a building that has a doll collection, a military history collection, and a collection of farm and household equipment from Laura’s time. Another building has multiple different scenes set up from Laura’s time in Walnut Grove. There’s a post office, a general store, a livery, and a Prairie Schooner wagon at the ready. There is a recreated prairie sod house complete with spiders! One would surely not notice a cow grazing overhead while in there. The final building of the museum is a recreation of the first floor of the Ingalls’ wood frame house fully furnished.

In the evening, we went to the site of the Dugout on the banks of Plum Creek. The Creek was too high to walk across because of all the rain, but thankfully there was a nice bridge to take to the site of the Dugout. The Dugout itself has collapsed in, but they were able to locate the site of it using old records. There were many people visiting the Dugout, some in full-out Prairie era dress. I of course had my bonnet on. 🙂 I think we should make bonnets a things again; they are so practical. There was also a very nice prairie walk behind the Dugout site on a restored prairie. We saw lots of butterflies and flowers.

That night we went to the pageant, which was at an outdoor theater just outside of town. The pageant was the highlight of the trip. The costumes were great and the actors all carried themselves accordingly. There were professional special effects (including fire!) and the sets were incredible. They pulled out full houses on wheels and assembled a church right before our eyes. If you ever find yourself in southwestern Minnesota in July I would recommend making a trip to Walnut Grove to watch the pageant for yourself, no matter how buggy it is!

A week of Haikus

This idea was inspired by an article I read on TED. For an entire week I will be writing a haiku every single day.

Day 1: 7/11

Lunch with friends
Green tea lemonade
Our dresses swing

Day 2: 7/12

An EEG Demo
My head is all gelled
No sounds play

Day 3: 7/13

It’s right there
The train speeds away
Time to wait

Day 4: 7/14

Day of rest
To catch up on life
A blessing

Day 5: 7/15

Invited
Lunch with royalty
I met Plack

Day 6: 7/16

Pass the time
Coding helps a friend
Lab’s empty

Day 7: 7/17

Birthday time
Can’t keep it secret
Happy birthday

Well after a week of haiku keeping, I can say it’s an interesting way to keep track of what happened in that day. You can see what was deemed important enough at the time to write a haiku, what brought some version of emotion to me. Haikus are pretty short and easy to write. They can be written while taking the train somewhere, during a five-minute break at work, or while watching Netflix in the evening. I often have difficulty keeping up a journal because I feel the pressure to write pages and pages about my entire day. A haiku is short and simple, even those that don’t write much and don’t like blocks of text can adapt to it. 10/10 recommend.

What am I doing with pitch and brains?

A Bit of Background

Pitch is a perceptual quantity relating to the periodicity of a sound. Another definition for pitch is the “attribute of auditory sensation by which sounds are ordered on the scale used for melody in music” (Oxenham 2017). A low pitch sound will have a long wavelength and sound deep like a base drum. A high pitch sound will have a short wavelength and be like a bird call. Wavelength is the distance from one peak to the next.

Low pitch sounds have a longer wavelength and are”deeper”. High pitch sounds have a shorter wavelength and are “higher”. A man’s voice is lower pitch than a woman’s voice.

Laboratory sounds are often categorized based on whether they are pure tones or complex tones. A pure tone consists of only one specific frequency and the waveform looks like the familiar sine wave. Pure tones are the most basic unit of sound and are not found in nature. If you have ever had a hearing test, then you have heard the pure tone “beeps” that an audiologist uses to screen your hearing. A complex tone is made by adding multiple pure tones together. Complex tones consist of multiple frequencies and are what we would call natural sounds. For more information on pure tones vs. complex tones look here.

Harmonic tones are those that share a common frequency called the central frequency or fundamental frequency (f0). Harmonic tones are considered pitch-evoking tones, meaning that one could pick out the pitch even when the fundamental frequency is not there. Inharmonic tones have no common frequency and also have a low perception of pitch.

In the inner ear there is a structure called the cochlea that looks like a snail shell. The cochlea is the organ of hearing and allows for the conversion of mechanical sound waves to electrical signals that can be sent to the brain. Within the cochlea sits the cochlear filter, or basilar membrane, which sorts the vibrations based on their frequency (whether they are high-pitched or low-pitched). Here is a video that demonstrates how the basilar membrane works.

Harmonic tones are specially coded in the basilar membrane. Lower harmonics (up to 8-10th) are distinguishable and put in it’s own “box”; these are resolved tones. Resolved tones are spaced differentially enough on the basilar membrane to fall into their own cochlear filter. Higher harmonics (above the 10th) are not as distinct and can sometimes be confused for one another. These higher harmonics are known as unresolved harmonics which means that multiple harmonics fall within the same cochlear band.

Harmonics that fall within their own distinct cochlear band are called resolved harmonics. Higher harmonics that incorporate multiple harmonics into the same cochlear band are called unresolved harmonics.

What are we trying to do?

Now that you have a bit of background on all the terminology, let me explain my current project in a bit more detail. Multiple studies have found that there are so-called “pitch regions” of the brain, regions especially skilled in perceiving pitch. They have found the antero-lateral (antero- to the front, later-to the side) region of Heschl’s gyrus is the primary location of these regions. Heschl’s gyrus is in the temporal lobe of the brain and is where the Primary Auditory Cortex is located. These studies have used many different types of pitch-evoking stimuli and control stimuli ranging from noise to harmonic tones. Many of these studies have used resolved (low-frequency) harmonic tones as pitch-evoking stimuli and compared them with unresolved (high-frequency) harmonic tones and frequency-matched noise that has no detectable pitch.

The red dot area where Heschl’s gyrus is located in the brain.

Few studies have compared the neural activation of inharmonic tones, which have an indiscernible pitch, to harmonic tones. The present study aims to determine if there are differences in neural activation for harmonic and inharmonic sounds and if these differences correspond to the previously reported “pitch-sensitive” regions. The test presents harmonic and inharmonic tones that are both high- and low-frequency to subjects while measuring brain activation using fMRI. We hypothesize that harmonic tones will have stronger representations in these “pitch-sensitive regions” of the brain compared to the inharmonic tones.

The designing of a test

What does my day actually look like you ask? I spend most of my day reading papers, doing documentation, and writing code on MATLAB. Plus I often shadow people in the lab as they do different things and run their own tests. My first couple weeks I spent most of the days building different iterations of the same test to carry out the task described above.

First I had to build the test stimuli which are shown in the figure below. There are six different conditions presented during this test and everything about them is mostly randomized to some degree. The six conditions are harmonic resolved tone complexes, inharmonic resolved tone complexes, harmonic unresolved tone complexes, inharmonic unresolved tone complexes, low-frequency noise, and high-frequency noise. The noise conditions are acting as our control conditions. The low-frequency noise is the control for the resolved tones and the high-frequency noise the control for the unresolved tones.

A frequency spectra of the six conditions. The low frequency conditions are shown in the first row and the second row depicts the high-frequency conditions. The first column corresponds to the harmonic tones, the second column the inharmonic tones, and the third column shows the spectra for the noise control.

Next, we had to build an actual behavioral test which the subjects could do while they are in the fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine. The test is all run off a MATLAB code that I have built and tweaked many times. 🙂 The subjects don’t see any of the inner workings; all they see is a window that displays messages about their progress and their score. For example it might display: “The score was 92%. The next block is 5.” There is a block that turns yellow to indicate that the sound is on and another block that turns green when a button is pressed.

Guided User Interface (GUI) for the Harmonic-Inharmonic Test. The white box displays text to prompt the participant and notify them of their progress. The sound status block turns yellow to indicate that the sound is on. The button press block turns green to indicate that a button was pressed.

Each block consists of only one condition. Within each block there are 25 tones. Each tone is made up of three 200-ms pulses of identical stimuli. Each tone has a different central frequency than the ones before and after it, unless it is a repeater. To keep the participant engaged with the sound and to measure their attentiveness, we have built in a one-back task. When the participant hears a tone that is identical to the preceding tone they press the button.

The stimulus presentation for a single block. The f0 of a tone is represented by the color of the block. Each tone consists of three pulses which is represented by the boxes in the square. The gaps between each tone represents the 200 ms of silence between each tone. The blue blocks represent the one-back detection task where the participant would identify when the same stimulus was presented twice in succession. 

Each run consists of two blocks (20-s duration) of each condition, as well as five 12-s “rest” blocks. A rest block follows and tails each run with the remaining three randomly dispersed between the active task blocks. Between each active task there is four seconds of rest built in. These rest blocks are just periods of silence.

The stimulus presentation  for a single run where the blocks of silence are represented by a solid block  and the active blocks are striped. The gaps between the blocks represent the four seconds of silence between blocks.

The figure below shows what multiple runs over the course of one session could look like. All of the blocks are randomly dispersed throughout the run and never allowed to be in succession. Each run lasts about five and a half minutes, which lets us get a lot of data in a short session.

Multiple runs in succession. The rest periods of silence are represented by the black blocks. The harmonic resolved tones (HR), inharmonic resolved tones (IR), harmonic unresolved tones (HU), inharmonic unresolved tones (IU), low-frequency noise (LN), and high-frequency noise (HN) blocks are pseudorandomly presented.

Now we are preparing our protocol for the MRI. Soon we will be scanning our first pilot subject and calibrating the system. Onwards to more science!

Week 6: Week of 7/8

This week brought a big meeting on Tuesday that to my mind determined the rest of the project. Really, it just decided whether or not I would get to see my test run in an MRI system before I left. I really want those brains on my final poster if I am going to be honest. The meeting went great and my code got approved with just a minor tweak, which meant I could move on to testing subjects in a pilot test (that of course I had already scheduled for the next day!).

What the “pretty cover”, or Guided User Interface (GUI) of my test looks like.

The W in Wednesday stands for whirlwind right? Wednesday brought a 12 hour work day consisting of two seminars and running an entire pilot study. I started with a weekly seminar; this week covered the ins and outs of abstract writing and poster designing. It ended with a two-hour seminar where we dissected graduate school personal statements and talked about what strengthened a personal statement and what killed one.

The pilot study was it’s own pit of craziness. As soon as I returned from morning seminar I had my first subject and I definitely hadn’t reviewed the testing protocol well enough! Five subjects turned into four subjects when one subject had to be ruled out of the study for not meeting the tough qualifications our lab had set. The protocol consisted of paperwork, a hearing test, and seven runs that lasted five and a half minutes. That doesn’t sound like a lot till you realize you still have to get work done while running subjects.

Every second has to be down to the clockwork. I found the perfect use for my new Fitbit: letting me know when 5.5 mins had past. As soon as the timer went off I ran to the booth with my notebook to jot down some preliminary data and set the subject up for the next run. During the entire proceedings I was building a code to analyze the data and then analyzing the data in real time, while working on a piece of documentation for my team. When I was running the last subject, my subject knocked on the window of the booth to get my attention …. I had fallen asleep in the chair next to the booth. Gotta love the research life!

The kids today successfully put on the EEG cap and were surprisingly good at gelling the electrodes in.

Don’t worry work isn’t always all science. This week we’ve had two different group of campers visiting the lab to see the space and learn a bit about sensory neuroscience. The first demo we showed them was a haunted house sensory experience that someone had designed. This took place in one of the booths that we have set up with a sound localization system and three walls of screens. Then a bunch of short scary clips come up with Goldy the Gopher edited into them and they have to try to find Goldy. After this, we showed them a program that “gauges” their emotions based on their facial features.

The emotion display system that uses facial recognition to categorize emotions. A positive spike indicates that emotion is present.

Next my involvement came more into play, we explain a bit more about the work we do and the auditory system. Then we showed them the EEG system and they got to set up a “subject” (a.k.a. me). My head got all jelled up, with varied success, and they got to button all the electrodes to the swim-cap-like EEG cap. The last demo of the day is probably one of my favorites because it’s more of a biomechanics thing than our lab, but technically we do have a motion system in the sensory booth. A few of the kids get to stick dot-sensors to themselves and go dance around in the sensory booth while we see their “form” (it’s a collection of dots) appear on the screen.

Two people dancing in the motion cap system. If you look at the dots, you can see a human outline.

A Scary Thing

Here’s something really scary to do: randomly email people and ask things of them. Even more scary? Randomly find people on LinkedIn and ask if they will meet with you, a total stranger. Now why am I stalking people you ask? One of my professors at school recommend that we meet with people in industry over the summer and just ask them about their lives (after all people love talking about themselves 🙂 ).

Was the project a success you ask? After messaging multiple people on LinkedIn who were working as an engineer or researcher in the biomedical industry here in Minneapolis and were conveniently Notre Dame alumni, I had three people get back to me to either meet for coffee or talk on the phone. I would call that a success!