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October 2018 UWIN seminar: Short talks by Howard Chizeck and Bill Moody

Howard Chizeck and Bill Moody will give short talks at the October 2018 UWIN seminarThe UWIN seminar series resumes for the 2018-19 academic year!  The October 2018 UWIN seminar features an exciting pair of short talks by UWIN faculty members Howard Chizeck and Bill Moody:

  • “Challenges in Optimizing Deep Brain Stimulation”
    Howard Chizeck, Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Washington
  • “Trans-skull imaging of brain activity in neonatal mice during spontaneous sleep-wake cycles”
    Bill Moody, Professor, Department of Biology, University of Washington

The seminar is on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 at 3:30pm in Health Sciences Building (HSB) G-328.  Refreshments will be served prior to the talks.


“Challenges in Optimizing Deep Brain Stimulation” (Howard Chizeck):

Deep Brain Stimulation is an approved treatment for Parkinson’s Disease and essential tremor, and is under investigation at various institutions for several other neurological conditions. New devices make it possible to optimally select stimulation parameters for currently approved “open loop” treatments, and to implement closed loop algorithms that adjust stimulation “on the fly,” so as to address tradeoffs between symptom management and side effects. Recent results that we have obtained will be briefly described, and current challenges will be described.


“Trans-skull imaging of brain activity in neonatal mice during spontaneous sleep-wake cycles” (Bill Moody):

Widely propagating waves of electrical activity occur throughout the brain during early development, where they provide long- and short-range synchrony in neuronal activity that helps to establish cortical circuitry. Neuronal activity that is synchronized over large distances also occurs during adult slow-wave sleep and serves a central role in memory consolidation. Using trans-skull optical imaging of brain activity in neonatal mice, combined with power spectral analysis of EMG activity to measure sleep-wake cycles and dimensionality reduction methods to analyze the spatio-temporal patterns of brain activity, we have discovered that pan-cortical waves of activity, which had previously been thought to occur during all behavioral states in the developing brain, are in fact already segregated into sleep cycles by the end of the first postnatal week. Our results suggest that pan-cortical waves of activity in development may establish the long-range neuronal circuitry that is used in adult sleep to consolidate events experienced during wakefulness into long-term memory.

John Tuthill, UWIN faculty, wins 2018 McKnight Scholar Award

John Tuthill, UWIN faculty, winner of a 2018 McKnight Scholar AwardWe are proud to announce that John Tuthill, a UWIN faculty member, has won a 2018 McKnight Scholar AwardThe McKnight Scholar Awards, administered by the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, “encourage neuroscientists in the early stages of their careers to focus on disorders of learning and memory”.

The McKnight Scholar Awards “are granted to young scientists who are in the early stages of establishing their own independent laboratories and research careers and who have demonstrated a commitment to neuroscience. The mission of the Endowment Fund is to support innovative research that can bring science closer to the day when diseases of the brain can be accurately diagnosed, prevented, and treated.”

John Tuthill is one of six researchers awarded a 2018 McKnight Scholar Award.  His research is on the topic of “Proprioceptive Feedback Control of Locomotion in Drosophila”: “Proprioception–the body’s sense of self-movement and position–is critical, for the effective control of movement, yet little is known about how the brain’s motor circuits integrate this feedback to guide future movements. Dr. Tuthill’s lab is working to unlock the essence of motor learning in the brain by investigating how walking fruit flies learn to avoid obstacles and navigate unpredictable environments, assessing the role of sensory feedback in motor control by optogenetically manipulating proprioceptor activity. A deeper understanding of proprioceptive feedback control has the potential to transform the way in which we understand and treat movement disorders.”

Previously, Dr. Tuthill was named a 2017 Allen Institute Next Generation Leader, awarded a Sloan Fellowship, named a 2017 Searle Scholar, and received a UW Innovation Award.

2018 UWIN Undergraduate and Post-baccalaureate Fellowships awarded

Join us in welcoming UWIN’s newest undergraduate and post-baccalaureate fellows!  Six undergraduate students and three post-baccalaureate researchers were awarded 2018 UWIN Fellowships.  You can read all about their exciting research below, and follow the links to see all of UWIN’s undergraduate and post-baccalaureate fellows.

2018 UWIN Undergraduate Fellows

Mahad Ahmed, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Mahad Ahmed (2018 fellow) is an undergraduate student working with Tanvi Deora and Tom Daniel in the Biology department. He is investigating the neural basis of learning in hawkmoths (Manduca Sexta). Mahad’s current project looks at mechanosensation’s role in this learning, seeing how different flower shapes influence the moth’s feeding behaviors.
Mackenzie Andrews, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Mackenzie Andrews (2018 fellow) is an undergraduate student in Bioengineering and Neurobiology with a minor in Neural Computation and Engineering. She is working with Charles Chavkin in the Departments of Pharmacology. Mackenzie’s research investigates how brain regions communicate to drive behaviors associated with drug abuse and addiction. She is designing a device to be simultaneously implanted in two brain regions in mice capable of optogenetic modulation and electrophysiological recording of neural activity. After graduating, Mackenzie will be continuing this project into her Bioengineering Master’s thesis where she will be doing the computational work required to analyze the data.
Alyssa Giedd, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Alyssa Giedd (2018 fellow) is an undergraduate student working with Momona Yamagami and Sam Burden in the Electrical Engineering department. Alyssa’s research focuses on the development and testing of a remote data collection tool for quantifying motor planning. This will allow for the collection of data remotely so a greater number of individuals can participate in research on Cerebral Palsy.
Joyce Huang, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Joyce Huang (2018 fellow) is an undergraduate student in the Bioengineering department, working with Rajiv Saigal in the Neurosurgery Department. Joyce’s research focuses on electronically controlled drug release for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. She intends to pursue an MD degree and continue research in neuroengineering after graduation.
Aiden Maloney-Bertelli, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Aiden Maloney-Bertelli (2018 fellow) is an undergraduate student in Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering who works with Ramkumar Sabesan in the Ophthalmology department. Aiden is working on image processing algorithms for optical coherence tomography (OCT) of the human retina to support research in the emerging field of optophysiology. She and her lab aim to use a variant of OCT to noninvasively measure neuronal responses to visual stimuli and, thereby, provide insight into how the retina functions in healthy and diseased states.
Clara Orndoff, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Clara Orndorff (2018 fellow) is an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering major working with Tom Libby and Sam Burden in the Electrical Engineering department. Clara’s research includes designing and building a system that will be able to analyze the different methods with which moths use multi-sensory information to increase their agility. Specifically, this system will quantify a flying moth’s response to mechanically applied perturbations. The goal of this work is to obtain results that can be used to build and improve nature-inspired flying robots.

2018 UWIN Post-baccalaureate Fellows

Kirsten Gilchrist, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Kirsten Gilchrist (2018 fellow) is a post-baccalaureate researcher working with Steve Perlmutter and Jane Sullivan in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Kirsten’s research uses optogenetics to promote synapse regrowth and formation between cortical and spinal neurons. Her project will provide fundamental information on neural plasticity, with the goal of eventually improving treatment for spinal cord injuries. Kirsten attended the University of Washington where she received a bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology.
Pralaksha Gurung, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Pralaksha Gurung (2018 fellow) is a post-baccalaureate researcher working with John Tuthill in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Pralaksha is studying the diversity and distribution of proprioceptors along the leg of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies). She will be characterizing the anatomy of function of tibial proprioceptors using optogenetic tools. Pralaksha graduated from Colby College with a bachelor’s degree in Cellular Molecular Biology/Biochemistry.
Aidan Johnson, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Fellowship Aidan Johnson (2018 fellow) is a post-baccalaureate researcher working with Wu-Jung Lee in the Applied Physics Laboratory. Aidan’s research focuses on deriving the computational principles of sensorimotor behavior in the context of coordinated flight and multi-agent active sensing. He is broadly interested in the signal processing that occurs within the brain and how the functions of individual neurons are combined for system-level action and perception. He recently graduated from the University of Washington where he received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

2018 UWIN Postdoctoral Fellowships Awarded

Please welcome UWIN’s newest postdoctoral fellows!  Four outstanding researchers have been awarded 2018 UWIN Postdoctoral Fellowships, providing two years of support for their neuroengineering research at the University of Washington. Their exciting work ranges from neural implants to spinal cord stimulation to improving language learning, and two of them are co-supported by the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering.  The fellows will be starting their positions throughout the summer and fall of 2018.  You can read their exceptional biographies below, and follow the link to see all of UWIN’s current and emeritus postdoctoral fellows.

Laura Arjona, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Laura Arjona works in collaboration with Joshua R. Smith in Electrical Engineering and Chet Moritz in Rehabilitation Medicine. Laura’s research focuses on high performance readers and protocols for backscatter-based neural implants. Neural implants have the potential for significant impact in medicine, from restoring the use of limbs after spinal cord injury, to “electroceutical” alternatives to drugs, to brain-computer interfaces. Laura will be developing technology that will enable higher performance data transfer, as well as low latency bi-directional communication, which is essential for high-performance control of the nervous system. Laura will soon hold a doctoral degree in Engineering for the Information Society and Sustainable Development from the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain. She received a master’s degree in Information and Communication Electronic Systems from UNED University in Madrid, and a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Granada. Laura was awarded a specialization fellowship from the University of Deusto, and a Researcher Staff Training fellowship from the Basque Country Government.   She is co-funded by UWIN and the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering.
Kinsey Bice, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Kinsey Bice works in collaboration with Chantel Prat in Psychology and Rajesh Rao in Computer Science and Engineering. Kinsey’s research aims to optimize language learning by identifying how to direct brain activity into the best state for learning. Using EEG and machine learning techniques, her project will provide insight into the functional correlates and flexibility of the brain’s activity at rest, and will help in developing software and technologies that could make it easier for adults to learn new languages. Kinsey received her doctoral degree from Pennsylvania State University in Psychology with a dual-title in Language Sciences and a Specialization in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Lylah Deady, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Lylah Deady works in collaboration with John Tuthill in Physiology & Biophysics and Andre Berndt in Bioengineering. Lylah’s research seeks to design and implement genetically encoded tools to query neuronal circuitry in real time. Her work at UW concerns developing a sensor to report neuronal inhibition and use it to identify the role of GABAergic input in Drosophila leg proprioceptive circuits. Lylah received her doctoral degree in Physiology & Neurobiology from the University of Connecticut.
Allie Widman, recipient of a 2018 UWIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Allie Widman works in collaboration with Steve Perlmutter and Adrienne Fairhall in Physiology and Biophysics. Allie’s research aims to understand how targeted activity-dependent spinal stimulation, a potential treatment for spinal cord injury, alters neuronal circuits to improve forelimb function. Through a brain-computer interface, this stimulation protocol induces plasticity based on precise timing of neural activity. The focus of her study is to identify the time course and specificity of this spike-timing-dependent plasticity in descending and somatosensory pathways using neurophysiology and modeling experiments. Allie received a doctoral degree in Neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas. In addition to being named a WRF Innovation Postdoctoral Fellow, her awards include fellowships from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health.  She is co-funded by UWIN and the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering.

World’s lightest wireless flying robot created by UWIN faculty member Sawyer Fuller’s team

Size comparison between RoboFly, the lightest wireless flying robot, and a real fly

Size comparison between RoboFly and a real fly

UWIN faculty member Sawyer Fuller and his team have created what is to date the world’s lightest wireless flying robot. Weighing in at 190 mg, “RoboFly” is only slightly larger than an actual fly. The team also includes Vikram Iyer, Johannes James, Shyam Gollakota, and  Yogesh Chukewad. See the research paper here.

Currently, insect-sized flying machines need to be tethered in order to deliver the power required for flight (check out Fuller’s “RoboBee“). In order to circumvent this issue, RoboFly is powered by a laser beam using a photovoltaic cell. An on-board circuit boosts the seven volts generated by the cell to the 240 necessary to power the wings. The circuit also contains a microcontroller which controls the movement of the wings. “The microcontroller acts like a real fly’s brain telling wing muscles when to fire,” according to Vikram Iyer.

RoboFly, the lightest wireless flying robot, circuit

RoboFly’s flexible circuit. The copper coil and black boxes to the right comprise the boost converter, and the microcontroller is the small square box in the top right.

In the future, autonomous roboinsects could be used to complete tasks such as surveying crop growth or detecting gas leaks. “I’d really like to make one that finds methane leaks,” says Fuller. “You could buy a suitcase full of them, open it up, and they would fly around your building looking for plumes of gas coming out of leaky pipes. If these robots can make it easy to find leaks, they will be much more likely to be patched up, which will reduce greenhouse emissions. This is inspired by real flies, which are really good at flying around looking for smelly things. So we think this is a good application for our RoboFly.”

The team that created Robofly, the world's lightest wireless flying robot.

The Robofly team. Front row: Vikram Iyer (left) and Johannes James; back row (from left): Yogesh Chukewad, Sawyer Fuller, and Shyam Gollakota.

At the moment, RoboFly is only capable of taking off and landing, as there is no way for the laser beam to track the robot’s movement; but the team hopes to soon be able to steer the laser and allow the machine to hover and fly. Shyam Gollakota says that future versions could use tiny batteries or harvest energy from radio frequency signals. That way, their power source can be modified for specific tasks.

See a video below of the RoboFly in action!

RoboFly has received extensive publicity, see coverage by WIRED, The Economist, IEEE Spectrum, MIT Tech Review, TechCrunch, Discover Magazine, GeekWire, Popular Mechanics, Engadget, CNET, Digital Trends, Siliconrepublic, and SlashGear.

UWIN faculty members Steve Brunton and Kat Steele win 2018 UW College of Engineering Awards

UW College of Engineering Award winners Steve Brunton and Kat SteeleWe are excited to announce that two UWIN faculty members have won 2018 UW College of Engineering Awards! Steve Brunton won the Junior Faculty Award and Kat Steele received the Team Award as part of the Engineering Innovation in Health teaching team.  The College of Engineering Awards “acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the college’s teaching and research assistants, staff and faculty members.” Congratulations to Steve and Kat!

Both have previously won UW College of Engineering Awards.  In 2017, Steve won the Faculty Award for Teaching; and in 2016, Kat  won the Junior Faculty Award.

May 2018 UWIN seminar: Short talks by David Perkel and Rajiv Saigal

David Perkel and Rajiv Saigal, the 2018 May UWIN seminar speakers.Please join us for the May 2018 UWIN seminar! This installment features a fascinating pair of short talks by UWIN faculty members David Perkel and Rajiv Saigal:

  • A simple microcircuit for generating neural variability to support vocal learning”
    David Perkel, Professor,  Departments of Biology and Otolaryngology, University of Washington
  • “Opportunities and Limitations of Neuroengineering approaches to CNS injury”
    Rajiv Saigal, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Washington

The seminar is on Wednesday, May 9th, 2018, at 3:30pm in Husky Union Building (HUB) 337. Refreshments will be served prior to the talks.


A simple microcircuit circuit for generating neural variability for vocal learning” (David Perkel):

Songbirds, like humans, learn their vocalizations from other individuals using a trial-and-error process. We study the neural mechanisms underlying this ability as a model both for speech learning but also more generally as a model for reinforcement learning of complex motor skills. One requirement of trial-and-error learning is variability from trial to trial. Songbirds have a basal ganglia circuit that generates and rapidly modulates neural and behavioral variability, and we have identified experimentally a simple neural microcircuit that can contribute to generating variability. We have also used a highly constrained neural model to explore this possible mechanism for exploring acoustic space during vocal learning.


“Opportunities and Limitations of Neuroengineering approaches to CNS injury” (Rajiv Saigal):

Both traumatic brain and spinal cord injury (TBI and SCI) involve a primary mechanical trauma and well-elucidated secondary injury mechanisms. In spite of this knowledge and promising pre-clinical data, multiple clinical trials have failed to demonstrate benefit for human patients. This talk will review some of the clinical challenges and unmet needs for treating these complex injuries. There is a growing body of literature on engineering approaches for treating TBI and SCI. We will review promising approaches and opportunities for collaboration at UW.


UWIN fellows Kaitlyn Casimo and Karley Benoff named two of the 2018 Husky 100!

UWIN fellows Kaitlyn Casimo and Karley Benoff, both named to the 2018 Husky 100Congratulations to UWIN graduate fellow Kaitlyn Casimo and UWIN undergraduate fellow Karley Benoff, who were named two of the 2018 Husky 100!  Each year the Husky 100 award “recognizes 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students from Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma in all areas of study who are making the most of their time at the UW”.

Students named to the Husky 100 “actively connect what happens inside and outside of the classroom and apply what they learn to make a difference on campus, in their communities and for the future. Through their passion, leadership and commitment, these students inspire all of us to shape our own Husky Experience.”

UWIN fellow Kaitlyn Casimo, one of the 2018 Husky 100Kaitlyn Casimo, UWIN graduate fellow, says: “Besides developing programs in interactive, informal science learning to make science fun for kids and adults, I’m improving the way we tell stories about science on the stage and page. When I’m not doing research on patterns of connectivity in the human brain, I’m working to bring science to new audiences in innovative and accessible ways and to teach other scientists to do the same.”

Kaitlyn was awarded a UWIN graduate fellowship in 2014 and is a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience program, where she is a member of Jeff Ojemann’s lab in Neurological Surgery.  She studies the electrophysiology of human resting state and task based brain connectivity, working with patients undergoing epilepsy surgery. She is especially interested in changes in connectivity related to brain-computer interface use and learning. Kaitlyn received a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Pomona College, where she studied physiological responses to stress. She is a joint fellow of UWIN and the UW Computational Neuroscience Training Grant.  Kaitlyn  was named to the 2016 class of AAAS Emerging Leaders in Science & Society.

UWIN fellow Karley Benoff, one of the 2018 Husky 100Karley Benoff, UWIN undergraduate fellow, shares: “Throughout my Husky Experience, I have sought opportunities to empower people with all levels of mobility. This includes researching to develop and evaluate assistive devices, working in teams to tackle unmet clinical needs and helping establish HuskyADAPT, a student organization dedicated to improving and advocating for accessibility. As a 2018 graduate, I aspire to use my technical background and leadership experience to help advance healthcare technology.”

Karley was awarded a UWIN undergraduate fellowship in 2017 and is a Mechanical Engineering major working with Kat Steele in the ME Ability & Innovation Lab. Karley’s research focuses on designing and optimizing body-powered orthoses for individuals with neuromuscular deficits of the arm. She will test her device with participants using electromyography (EMG) signals to evaluate motor learning and user adaptation. Karley’s goal is have the final orthosis design be open source.

Kaitlyn and Karley join former UWIN undergraduate fellow Camille Birch, who was named one of 2017’s Husky 100.

April 2018 UWIN seminar: Joint seminar with the eScience Institute, talk by John Darrell Van Horn

John Darrell Van Horn, the 2018 April UWIN/eScience Institute seminar speaker.Please join us for the April 2018 UWIN seminar! This month’s installment is special joint seminar with the eScience Institute and features a talk by John Darrell Van Horn, Associate Professor of Neurology, University of Southern California:

“Making data science training resources FAIR”

The seminar is on April 11th, 2018, at 3:30pm in Physics/Astronomy Auditorium (PAA) A102.


In our rapidly evolving information era, methods for handling large quantities of data obtained in biomedical research have emerged as powerful tools for confronting critical research questions. These methods are having significant impacts in diverse domains ranging from genomics, to health informatics, to environmental research, and beyond. The NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Training Consortium, in particular, has worked to empower current and future generations of researchers with a comprehensive understanding of the data science ecosystem, giving them the ability to explore, prepare, analyze, visualize, and interpret Big Data. To this end, the BD2K Training Coordinating Center (TCC) was funded to facilitate in-person and online learning, and to open the concepts of data science to the widest possible audience. In this presentation, I will describe the activities of the BD2K TCC, particularly the construction of the Educational Resource Discovery Index (ERuDIte). ERuDIte identifies, collects, describes, and organizes over 10,000 data science training resources, including: online data science materials from BD2K awardees; open online courses; and videos from scientific lectures and tutorials. Given the richness of online training materials and the constant evolution of biomedical data science, computational methods applying information retrieval, natural language processing, and machine learning techniques are required. In effect, data science is being used to inform training in data science where the so-called FAIR principles apply equally to these resources as well as to the datatypes and methods they describe. As a result, the work of the TCC has aimed to democratize novel insights and discoveries brought forth via large-scale data science training. This presentation will be of interest to anyone seeking to personalize their own data science education, craft unique online training curricula, and/or share their own online training content.



Dr. Van Horn is an associate professor of neurology with additional appointments in neuroscience and in electrical engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA, a masters in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his PhD from the University of London in the United Kingdom. He is an accomplished author (over 150 publications, h-index>45), university-level educator, and is known internationally as an expert in neuroinformatics and data sharing. He enjoys traveling, road cycling, mountaineering, is a private pilot, and lives in Los Angeles, CA, with his wife and two daughters.


March 2018 UWIN seminar: Short talks by Steve Perlmutter and Steve Brunton

Steve Perlmutter and Steve Brunton, the 2018 March UWIN seminar speakers.Please join us for the March 2018 UWIN seminar! This installment features a captivating duo of short talks by UWIN faculty members Steve Perlmutter and Steve Brunton:

  • Changes in Corticospinal Synaptic Strength Lead to Compensatory Changes in Cortical Neuron Firing. What’s the Feedback Signal?”
    Steve Perlmutter, Research Associate Professor, Department of Physiology & Biophysics, University of Washington
  • Learning physics and the physics of learning”
    Steve Brunton, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington

The seminar is on Wednesday, March 14th, 2018, at 3:30pm in Husky Union Building (HUB) 337.  Refreshments will be served prior to the talks.


“Changes in Corticospinal Synaptic Strength Lead to Compensatory Changes in Cortical Neuron Firing. What’s the Feedback Signal?” (Steve Perlmutter):

We are using activity-dependent electrical stimulation to induce synaptic plasticity in behaving non-human primates. Spinal stimulation triggered by corticomotoneuronal cell activity leads to increases in synaptic strength at the synapse to spinal motoneurons.  The activity pattern of the triggering cell changes after the conditioning in a compensatory manner.  The mechanism for this compensatory change is not clear, but suggests an unexpectedly tight feedback loop to precisely regulate cortical output to motoneurons.


Learning physics and the physics of learning” (Steve Brunton):

The ability to discover physical laws and governing equations from data is one of humankind’s greatest intellectual achievements.  A quantitative understanding of dynamic constraints and balances in nature has facilitated rapid development of knowledge and enabled advanced technology, including aircraft, combustion engines, satellites, and electrical power.  There are many more critical data-driven problems, such as understanding cognition from neural recordings, inferring patterns in climate, determining stability of financial markets, predicting and suppressing the spread of disease, and controlling turbulence for greener transportation and energy.  With abundant data and elusive laws, data-driven discovery of dynamics will continue to play an increasingly important role in these efforts.  This work develops a general framework to discover the governing equations underlying a dynamical system simply from data measurements, leveraging advances in sparsity-promoting techniques and machine learning.

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