The Backyard Brains 2018 Summer Research Fellowship is coming to a close, but not before we get some real-world scientific experience in! Our research fellows are nearing the end of their residency at the Backyard Brains lab, and they are about to begin their tenure as neuroscience advocates and Backyard Brains ambassadors. The fellows dropped in on University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) Symposium during their final week of the fellowship, and each scientist gave a quick poster presentation about the work they’d been doing this summer! The fellows synthesized their data into the time-honored poster format and gave lightning-round pitches of their work to attendees. BYB is in the business of creating citizen scientists, and this real-world application is always a highlight of our fellowship. Check out their posters below!
Be it fate, choice, or a downstream effect of our universe’s tendency to gradually decay into chaos, I ended up doing what I love this summer, and surrounded by some of the most interesting people I’ve met. One could not ask for more. But this begs the question, “Would I have made it into such an amazing situation without utilizing a tiny bit of free will?” Yes. We may not be as random as electron tunneling, but we are still physical beings governed by the same physical phenomena which characterize the rest of our universe. By some chance, our brains ended up being wired to draw useful associations between the impressions experientially left upon them while also becoming tuned enough to exact fine manipulation of their surroundings. Nothing more can be said.
Since I last posted, the volume of my data has grown considerably. I have now been able to locate the readiness potential in over 15 research participants, and under a variety of conditions. I have also fine-tuned the code which produces summary pages for entire recording sessions (the printouts are shown below). Throughout the summer, I have found the readiness potential within paradigms involving closed eyes, open eyes, spontaneous movement, random movement, and timed movement. Overarchingly, I have recognized a few trends in the data which could be exploited to allow for the real-time prediction of movements, which is my plan for the remainder of this fellowship. With additional differences in observed mu rhythm activity between spontaneous and planned movements, it is possible that small tweaks to the experimental procedure could prompt more predictable responses. Spontaneous movements tend to yield sharper readiness potentials (possibly indicative of planning) and a sharper reduction in mu rhythms closer to the onset of movement, which is why the standard experimental procedure I’m using (an adaptation of the classic Libet task described in my previous post), would theoretically yield the best results. The readiness potential and mu rhythm dynamics will be the first predictors explored in the post-hoc analysis of prediction efficacy.
In order to better reproduce Libet’s findings, each event (wrist flexion) is separated by a reiteration of the instructions and the subject confirming that they are ready for the next trial. When it comes to real-time prediction, it will be important to separate the conditions for classification into the discrete windows, such as the time after the trial has begun but before the event occurs. Additionally, the average wait time between trial onset and event can be considered to generate an exploitable probability distribution for the prediction algorithm. Wait time could end up also factoring into the readiness potential dynamics.
I am presently constructing the code which will train a classifier on previously collected data to test its ability to accurately detect the movements that occurred during those sessions. The magnitude of the readiness potential still falls below the magnitude of typical EEG signals, so other methods for adjustment of the voltage-time series are also being explored, such as monitoring the average over a set bin size through use of convolution with a pulse, or rectangle function. The results of these analyses will be reported in the final blog post. The best post-hoc methods will be used in the real-time interface.
I saw a beautiful rainbow over Ann Arbor the other day. Hopefully it’s a sign that my research will yield publishable results.
One of the most attractive things about a BYB Summer Fellowship is the chance to spend a summer in colorful Ann Arbor. We changed the program name from an internship to a fellowship because of the lasting connections made throughout the summer, and these connections are made possible by the things we all do together! Before we get to some project updates, here’s a little bit about our summer together so far.
Take Me Out To The Ball Game
Last summer, we sponsored a student whose visa required participation in a “cultural appreciation” event, so we piled into a bus and headed over to Comerica Park for some of America’s favorite sport, baseball. It was such a hit, we went again this year! Luckily, Backyard Brains signature color (orange!) matches pretty well with the Tigers brand 😉
Fourth of July Parade
Another celebrated BYB Summer Fellowship pastime is the Jaycee’s Fourth of July Parade! Each year, the fellows design and build a costume representing their summer research and wear it as BYB walks in the annual parade! Check out some of the looks from this year:
Meet the Fellows, See the Projects
Catch up with our Fellows! Since our Fellowship started, each fellow has been hard at work on their summer research. Check out these posts introducing each Fellowship research track:
- Jess – No Nose, No Mouth, No Problems: the Silkmoth Story
- Jessica – Introducing Pavlov’s…Plants?
- Yifan – Know Your Birds
- Ilya – Neurorobot Vision
- Aaron – Nothing In Life Is Free
- Dan – Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em…Shrimps?!
- Anusha – Creating Professor X
- Molly – Bee-search: How Do Bees See
- Maria – Electric Relaxation
- Anastasiya – Secret Life of Jellyfish
- Ben – Python
First Progress Reports:
If you’ve been dying for an update on what we’ve been researching, fret no more! Feast your eyes on our first batch of updates!
- Jess – Becoming a #MothMom
- Jessica – Plant Nanny: If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try, try again
- Yifan – Human, Quiet, Crow: Teaching Computers to Distinguish Birdsong
- Ilya – Neurorobot on Wheels
- Dan – Mantis Shrimp: I Want You To Do Me A Favor. I Want You To Hit Me As Hard As You Can
- Molly – Bee-lieve You Can and You’re Halfway There: The Prototyping Process
- Aaron – Is It Actually My Choice To Not Title This Post?
- Anusha – In Search of the Mu Rhythm
- Anastasiya – Jellies, and GUIs, and Costumes, Oh My!
- Maria – Meditation Data or Bust
Second Progress Reports:
Science marches ever onward! The Fellows have kept plugging away on their research in between all the fun and games, and here are their newest updates!
- Jess – Silk Moths, Enter The Arena: Binary Choice Paradigm
- Jessica – A Peagrim’s Progress, or, “Let’s get down to pea-zness”
- Ilya – Neurorobot Video Transmission In Progress
- Yifan – Volume Threshold for Songbird Audio
- Dan – Houston, we have a datum
- Molly – Beauty is in the eye of the Bee-holder: studies with a hive begin!
- Aaron– We don’t have free will. Change my mind.
- Anastasiya – On Set in the New Jellyfish Mobile Recording Chamber
- Anusha – …And I Almost Read His Mind!
- Maria – Fresh, organic, locally sourced meditation research
The summer is winding down, and with it our Fellowship. While scientific exploration is never really finished, here are some wrap-ups from our Fellows on the projects they have devoted their inquiry to over the past weeks.
- Jess – Finishing the Silkmoth Story
- Jessica – New kid on the block
- Ilya – Quicker and Smarter: Neurorobot on the Hunt
- Yifan – Take a Step Back and look into the future
- Dan – Shrimp! Heaven! Now!
- Molly – From bee-fuddled to a bee-stower of knowledge: the end of my bee journey
- Anusha – Movement Mind Reader: Hopefully not the end…
- Ben – Summer Summary
- Anastasiya – The End of My Jellyfish Summer (Or Is It?)