Projects in David Eagleman's lab:

My project in David Eagleman's lab at Baylor College of Medicine investigated the reorganization and dynamics of the functional mapping of the human female breast after a unilateral mastectomy (or the removal of breast tissue to treat breast cancer). The work was important in uncovering the time-course of large-scale neural plasticity and could translate directly to the clinic to help treat and prevent phantom sensations and pain. Under David's guidance, I wrote grants, designed the experiments, formed hypotheses, and ultimately constructed the tools and programs necessary to implement the project and carry out analyses. Using a custom-built tactile stimulator, I acquired data from breast cancer patients and healthy individuals, examining how the representation of the mastectomized breast in the brain changed over time, compared the representation from the patient’s healthy breast and both breasts in individuals without breast cancer. Preliminary results suggested that the brain territory previously devoted to the mastectomized breast is active when the healthy breast was stimulated, suggesting that inhibitory signaling between both hemispheres of the brain was reduced . Unfortunately, due to the low signal-to-noise ratio and high variability in individual-subjects fMRI analysis, I was unable to consistently capture the data needed to draw publishable conclusions (group analysis was not possible due to the high-resolution imaging sequence needed to collect data, which prevented the use of standard normalization algorithms).

Lengthened temporal integration in schizophrenia. Eagleman lab, circa 2008-2009.

Lengthened temporal integration in schizophrenia. Eagleman lab, circa 2008-2009.

My project in David Eagleman's lab at Baylor College of Medicine investigated the reorganization and dynamics of the functional mapping of the human female breast after a unilateral mastectomy (or the removal of breast tissue to treat breast cancer). The work was important in uncovering the time-course of large-scale neural plasticity and could translate directly to the clinic to help treat and prevent phantom sensations and pain. Under David's guidance, I wrote grants, designed the experiments, formed hypotheses, and ultimately constructed the tools and programs necessary to implement the project and carry out analyses. Using a custom-built tactile stimulator, I acquired data from breast cancer patients and healthy individuals, examining how the representation of the mastectomized breast in the brain changed over time, compared the representation from the patient’s healthy breast and both breasts in individuals without breast cancer. Preliminary results suggested that the brain territory previously devoted to the mastectomized breast is active when the healthy breast was stimulated, suggesting that inhibitory signaling between both hemispheres of the brain was reduced . Unfortunately, due to the low signal-to-noise ratio and high variability in individual-subjects fMRI analysis, I was unable to consistently capture the data needed to draw publishable conclusions (group analysis was not possible due to the high-resolution imaging sequence needed to collect data, which prevented the use of standard normalization algorithms).

Despite the ultimate lack of success of the project, my interdisciplinary background gave me the great flexibility needed to successfully overcome many of the challenges I encountered.  For example, at the onset, neither my lab nor our neuroimaging facility had stimulation equipment, which was crucial to the project’s completion. Using my engineering background, I worked with two students in the lab, Gregory Bhouslav and Mingbo Cai, to design and construct an MR-compatible pneumatic device capable of delivering bursts of pressurized, filtered air to 20 distinct points to a participant’s skin while in the brain scanner. I adapted and used the system extensively throughout the course of data collection with both patients and healthy controls. Also, because of the generic, customizable nature of the device’s ability to deliver precise stimulation, it was later applied to unrelated, ongoing neuroimaging experiments requiring somatosensory stimulation, such as using fMRI to examine the neural basis for somatosensory illusions.

I also worked on several other projects in the lab, including one examining time perception in schizophrenia. I managed the lab's IRB protocols, helped to coordinate the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law (including acting as the TA for the Neuroscience & Law class), and assisted in grant writing.

 

Posters

Society for Neuroscience, 2008.

Society for Neuroscience, 2008.

Society for Neuroscience, 2009.

Society for Neuroscience, 2009.

Rush Record Symposium, 2009.

Rush Record Symposium, 2009.