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Creating Professor X

Remember Professor Charles Francis Xavier? The founder and leader of X-men has phenomenal telepathic abilities. But, alas, he only exists in fiction! Or so we thought. What if we had the technology to make a part of Professor X’s abilities reality? We could channel the superpower of looking into people’s minds to know what movement they’re thinking of, before they make it. Maybe translate that tech into a robotic arm or leg?  I am working on making it reality this summer.

But how do we get around to predicting one’s imagined movements? One approach is to measure the “Mu Rhythms,” or also known as “Mu Waves” from the sensorimotor area of one’s brain by registering an EEG signal. The Mu Waves are associated with the movement of the body – either by actually moving any part of your body or by “thinking” about moving that particular part of your body. The sensorimotor area is a narrow strip that goes from one ear to the other one by along the top of the head. As we can see in the image below, the sensorimotor area involves the ‘Primary motor cortex’ and ‘Primary somatosensory cortex.’

Let’s explore these ‘Mu waves’ a little more. They occur in the above-mentioned regions only when the body is resting, or particularly when this particular cortex of the brain is ‘resting/idling.’ When we move a part of our body, the mu waves corresponding to that region disappear, or in scientific terms, these waves are desynchronized. The desynchronization will occur when the cortex is no more in the resting state. Interestingly, our brain isn’t idling when we’re imagining a movement. Which means, this desynchronization of the mu waves should be visible by mere imagination of a certain movement. And when I say imagining, I do not mean visual imagination, but the actual feeling of it, somewhat like imagining how it would *feel* like to move your hand without actually moving it. At this point, I am still working towards finding these rhythms, but theoretically, they should look somewhat like the highlighted region below (C4 corresponds to the left hand):

The positioning of the electrodes plays an important role in detecting the mu-rhythms! I hope to see these rhythms by the end of this week! Fingers crossed!


What next?

Once we do find these rhythms, the next step would be to quantify the suppression of the mu-waves in order to predict whether the body is relaxed or whether there’s some activity going on (either actual movement or the imagination of it). Once that is accomplished we can go ahead and measure the activity from different regions and predict which body part is the activity associated with.


A little about me!

My name is Anusha, and this is my first year in the US. I am pursuing my Master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Currently, I am basking in the much-awaited and short-lived summer in Ann Arbor; long walks around the sprawling beautiful campus and the lush green arboretum, seeking solace in the sunset by the Huron river with a nice cup of coffee and a good book, losing myself in the world of fiction. Music is one of my getaways; I have been trained in classical Indian music throughout my undergrad in India and take pleasure in singing from time to time. I’m also passionate about cooking, baking and eating of course.  Here’s me with my brother.