“My impending aspirations have been transformed since this placement and I look forward to what the future holds for me thanks to in2scienceUK”
My placement was with the University of Oxford in the Brain Network Dynamics Unit, alongside Petra Fischer and Eduardo Martin Moraud. I don’t think ‘passion’ is a strong enough word to describe their love for the infamous Basal Ganglia and its role in Parkinson’s disease.
Yes, I too first thought Basal Ganglia was an Italian dish and I couldn’t have been further away from the truth!
During my placement, I participated in several experiments and observed methods for recording or stimulating brain activity during different behavioural tasks. An EEG procedure was one of these, where Petra designed a programme to record brain activity during rhythmic movement to investigate how this activity changes with cognitive load.
In case you were wondering, this cap cannot be purchased anywhere on the high street – I know, what a shame!
The cap was connected to an amplifier in order to record the signals. The same amplifier can also be used to record activity of the basal ganglia from Parkinson’s disease patients to understand their involvement in movement related or cognitive tasks. We were shown different types of oscillations and readings to expect and how to filter a signal, which really just makes the data look clean and pretty.
We also had some fun controlling Edu’s movements with TMS, a tool that is not only used for research but also for example to treat depression. TMS relies on electromagnetic induction to stimulate a focal region of the brain. The procedure involves placing a magnetic field generator or coil near the head of the person receiving the treatment.
Researchers use TMS to measure the connection between the brain and a muscle to evaluate damage from stroke, multiple sclerosis, movement disorders, motor neuron disease and other disorders affecting the spinal cord.
As if all these new research skills were not already enough, we conducted a practical regarding muscle movement led by the King of the Spinal Cord himself. Edu showed us how to analyse muscle activity when movement change in speed or when they follow a template or shape in comparison to when freely performed. We observed greater muscle activity when movements were fast and more tightly constrained.
The past two weeks have not only been eye-opening for a new career path and a wonderful experience to learn new skills, but I genuinely feel it has been such a privilege to work with some of the world’s top scientists! I don’t think I have enough words to express my gratitude for the knowledge shared and the hospitality shown by the entire team. My impending aspirations have been transformed through this placement and I look forward to what the future holds for me thanks to in2scienceUK.