We are pleased to announce the seven exceptional University of Washington graduate students have been awarded 2017 Washington Research Foundation Innovation Graduate Fellowships in Neuroengineering: Aaron D. Garcia (Neuroscience), Vaishnavi Ranganathan (Electrical Engineering), Soshi Samejima (Rehabilitation Science), Raymond Sanchez (Neuroscience), Mohammad Tariq (Neuroscience), Momona Yamagami (Electrical Engineering), and Ezgi Yücel (Psychology). Read about the new fellows and their exciting, innovative research below:
Aaron D. Garcia is a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience program advised by Bing Brunton in Biology and Elizabeth Buffalo in Physiology and Biophysics. Aaron’s research centers on identifying brain activity in the hippocampus and surrounding structures used during navigation and memory tasks. His approach involves applying empirical mode decomposition in tandem with Hilbert Spectral Analysis to local-field-potential data recorded from high-density micro-drives. Aaron received a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Boston University. He is a joint fellow of UWIN and the Computational Neuroscience Training Grant.
Vaishnavi Ranganathan is a Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering working with Josh Smith in the Sensor Systems Lab. Vaishnavi’s research interests include fully wireless wearable devices and implantable neural interfaces for treatment and rehabilitation in patients with spinal cord injury. Specifically, she works on wireless power transfer and power-aware computation for implantable devices to remove the need for batteries and enable autonomous operation. Vaishnavi received a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and completed her bachelor’s degree at Amrita University in India.
Soshi Samejima is a Ph.D. student in Rehabilitation Science working with Chet Moritz in Rehabilitation Medicine and Rajiv Saigal in Neurological Surgery. Soshi’s research focuses on restoring mobility and leg/arm function for people with spinal cord injury by using electrical spinal stimulation and rehabilitation through neural interfaces and robotics. For the last 10 years, Soshi worked as a physical therapist. He received a clinical doctoral degree in physical therapy from MGH institute of Health Professions, a master’s degree in Biomedical Science and Athletic Training from Thomas Jefferson University and Texas Tech University respectively, and a bachelor’s degree in Health Science from Kanazawa University, Japan. He is co-funded by UWIN and the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering.
Raymond Sanchez is a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience program working in the lab of Horacio de la Iglesia in Biology. Raymond is interested in the neural circuits regulating sleep and circadian rhythms, and their relationship to neurological and psychiatric diseases. The goal of his research is to develop and validate a closed-loop system for real-time manipulations of sleep and seizures in a genetic mouse model of Dravet syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy accompanied by sleep disturbances. This system will serve as an open-source experimental tool for researchers interested in the interactions between sleep and disease, and inform the development of novel therapeutic devices for Dravet and other epileptic syndromes. Raymond received a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience & Cognitive Science from the University of Arizona.
Mohammad F. Tariq is a PhD student in the Neuroscience program working in the labs of David Gire in Psychology and David Perkel in Biology and Otolaryngology. His work focuses on understanding how olfactory cues in the environment guide memory formation and decision-making. He uses electrophysiology and imaging from freely behaving animals to study the network and physiological mechanisms that allow olfactory information to make robust memories of the environment. Mohammad received his bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from the Georgia State University.
Momona Yamagami is a graduate student in Electrical Engineering working with Kat Steele in Mechanical Engineering and Sam Burden in Electrical Engineering. In her research, Momona uses a computer trajectory-tracking task to quantify and predict motor planning impairments in children with cerebral palsy. She is broadly interested in understanding how humans learn different control models to plan their movements. Momona received her bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering from Rice University in Houston, Texas.
Ezgi Irmak Yücel is a graduate student in Psychology, where she is a member of the Vision and Cognition Group working with Ione Fine in Psychology and Ariel Rokem at the eScience Institute. Ezgi’s research broadly focuses on visual perception and restorative technologies for blindness. Her current project aims to validate a retinal model of restored vision developed by UWIN postdoctoral fellow Michael Beyeler. She will use psychophysical methods to accomplish this, with the eventual goal of optimizing stimulation protocols for retinal prosthetics to improve visual outcomes. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy from Bilkent University in Turkey.
The November UWIN seminar (2017) features a fascinating pair of short talks by UWIN faculty members Sawyer Fuller and Wyeth Bair:
“Fly-inspired visual flight control of insect-sized robots using wind sensing” Sawyer Fuller, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington
“Comparing shape representation in mid-level visual cortex to that in a deep convolutional neural network” Wyeth Bair, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Structure, University of Washington
The seminar is on Wednesday, November 8th, 2017 at 3:30pm in Husky Union Building (HUB) 337. Refreshments will be served prior to the talks.
“Fly-inspired visual flight control of insect-sized robots using wind sensing” (Sawyer Fuller):
In the Autonomous Insect Robotics Laboratory at the University of Washington, one of the projects we are interested in is how to give robots the size of a honeybee the ability to fly themselves autonomously. Larger drones can now do this task, but they use sensors that are not available in insect-sized packages, like the global positioning system and laser rangefinders. We are left with sight, the same modality used by flies. But visual processing is typically computationally intensive. I will describe research I performed on flies that reveals that they overcome this by combining slow feedback from vision with fast wind feedback, and discuss ramifications for our robots.
“Comparing shape representation in mid-level visual cortex to that in a deep convolutional neural network” (Wyeth Bair):
Convolutional neural nets (CNNs) are currently the best performing general purpose image recognition computer algorithms. Their design is hierarchical, not unlike the neural architecture of the ventral visual pathway in the primate brain, which underlies form perception and object recognition. We examined whether units within an implementation of “AlexNet” (Krizhevsky et al., 2012), following extensive supervised training, end up showing selectivity for the boundary curvature of simple objects in an object-centered coordinate system, similar to that found for neurons in the mid-level cortical area V4 (Pasupathy and Connor, 2001). I will show how the units in AlexNet compare to those in V4 in terms of shape-tuning and translation invariance and will discuss the benefits and limitations of comparing complex artificial neural networks to the brain.
We are extremely proud to announce that two UWIN faculty members, Bing Brunton (Biology) and Steve Brunton (Mechanical Engineering) have each won an AFOSR Young Investigator Research Program Award! The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Program recognizes those “who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research”, and who have received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last five years.
Bing’s awarded proposal was on “Sparse Sensing with Wing Mechanosensory Neurons for Estimation of Body Rotation in Flying Insects”. Steve’s winning proposal was on “Interpretable Nonlinear Models of Unsteady Flow Physics”. AFOSR Young Investigator Awards provide a 3-year grant totaling $450,000.
UWIN and eScience affiliates Ariel Rokem and Bing Brunton have started a neuroinformatics working group at the University of Washington, and all are welcome to join! The working group focuses on software and computing technologies and their role in data-intensive neuroscience research. You can read more about the purpose and objectives of the working group at its website.
Meetings of the working group take place in Kincaid 356 every other Thursday at 3 PM, starting October 5th.
There is also a mailing list for the working group, which you can subscribe to for updates. The mailing list will announce activities and facilitate discussion about neuroinformatics topics. This may include questions about neuroinformatics, sharing publication of papers/software, etc.
UWIN seminar resumes for the 2017-18 academic year! The October UWIN seminar features an exciting pair of short talks by UWIN faculty members Chet Moritz and John Tuthill:
“Neural devices to promote plasticity and recovery following spinal cord injury” Chet Moritz, Associate Professor, Departments of Rehabilitation Medicine, Physiology & Biophysics, University of Washington
“Neural coding of leg proprioception” John Tuthill, Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology & Biophysics, University of Washington
The seminar is on Wednesday, October 11th, at 3:30pm in Husky Union Building (HUB) 337. Refreshments will be served prior to the talks.
“Neural devices to promote plasticity and recovery following spinal cord injury” (Chet Moritz):
Neural devices have tremendous potential to improve quality of life after spinal cord injury. Both intraspinal and transcutaneous stimulation can activate neural circuits distal to an injury, leading to either direct muscle contraction or facilitating therapy enabling volitional movements. A recent case study of cervical transcutaneous stimulation resulted in both immediate and sustained improvements in hand and arm function. A participant with chronic C3 tetraplegia (ASIA D) improved nearly all measures of hand motor function tested after only 4 weeks of skin surface stimulation paired with physical therapy.Physical therapy alone did not lead to further improvements, but benefits were sustained over a three month follow-up period without further treatment.
“Neural coding of leg proprioception”(John Tuthill):
Proprioception, the sense of self-movement and body position, is critical for the effective control of motor behavior. We have developed new methods to record from genetically-identified neurons in proprioceptive circuits of the fruit fly, Drosophila, using 2-photon calcium imaging and patch-clamp electrophysiology. I will discuss our initial attempts to understand proprioceptive neural coding in cells and circuits that sense leg movement and position. I will also discuss how these proprioceptive feedback signals are used by motor circuits that control leg muscle activity and behavior.
We are pleased to announce that UWIN faculty member David Gire has been selected to receive a French/U.S. collaborative research award from the French Embassy and FACE Foundation. He and his collaborator Agnese Seminara (at CNRS in Nice, France) were awarded support from the Thomas Jefferson Fund, which aims to “support new collaborations and the most innovative projects between promising young researchers in France and the United States. The Thomas Jefferson Fund aims to foster forward-looking collaborative research in the fields of Humanities and Social Sciences, of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and of Science for Society that addresses the most pressing global challenges.”
They describe their project as follows: “Animals constantly make decisions based on a large array of sensory inputs that inform them of their environment. Chemical cues bear a fundamental source of information, that all domains of life extract with sophisticated mechanisms. While different species use the sense of smell to tailor their decision-making onto specific computational needs, the neural architecture underlying olfaction is remarkably similar. To unravel the fundamental principles that shape olfactory driven decision-making, we target a connection between the physics of odor transport in the air and animal behavior during olfactory navigation tasks. We believe that physics, behavior and neurobiology will all be critical to decipher the sense of smell. No single researcher has broad enough expertise to undertake this effort in isolation, and we strongly believe that collaboration is needed to make progress.”
UWIN is pleased to announce that seven undergraduate students and three post-baccalaureate researchers have been awarded 2017 Washington Research Foundation Innovation Fellowships in Neuroengineering. You can read their exceptional biographies below, and follow the links to see all of UWIN’s undergraduate and post-baccalaureate fellows.
2017 WRF Innovation Undergraduate Fellows:
Karley Benoff (2017 fellow) is an undergraduate 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.
Monica Harris (2017 fellow) is an undergraduate student working with Eatai Roth and Tom Daniel in the Biology department. Monica is interested in sensory processing systems, and her research focuses on the optomotor pitching response of the Hawk Moth (Manduca Sexta). Specifically, she explores how small- and wide-field visual stimuli affect the abdominal flexion of moths in a closed-loop system.
Kim Hua (2017 fellow) is an undergraduate student in Bioengineering working with Rajesh Rao in the Computer Science & Engineering department. Kim’s research uses electrocorticography (ECoG) to provide direct cortical stimulation as a means of providing tactile feedback in human subjects. She is interested in how different stimulation parameters change human perception. This information can inform future experiments on sensory stimulation and bi-directional brain computer interfaces. Kim aims to pursue a Ph.D. in Bioengineering after graduation.
Linxing Preston Jiang (2017 fellow) is an undergraduate student in Computer Science who works with Rajesh Rao in the Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and Andrea Stocco in the Psychology department. Preston is researching the relationship between transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and the elicited visual perception of human participants. After graduation, Preston hopes to pursue a Ph.D. to keep working in the field of brain computer interface and machine learning, and possibly bridging the gap between BCI and operating systems.
Jessica Johnson (2017 fellow) is an undergraduate student in Bioengineering working with Rajiv Saigal in the Neurosurgery Department. Jessica’s research investigates the use of a controlled, localized drug release system for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Bioengineering, with a focus in neuroscience.
Ben Pedigo (2017 fellow) is an undergraduate student in Bioengineering with a minor in Applied Math. He is working with Chet Moritz in the Departments of Rehabilitation Medicine and Physiology & Biophysics. Ben’s research investigates how optogenetic stimulation of the spinal cord may be able to improve upper-limb motor function after a spinal cord injury. He is optimizing the lab’s implantable optogenetic stimulation methods for use in long-term studies in rodents. After graduating, Ben plans to pursue a Ph.D. in bioengineering or a related field, continuing to study the interface between technology and the nervous system.
Gautham Velchuru (2017 fellow) is an undergraduate student in Computer Science working with Bing Brunton in the Biology department. Gautham’s work involves developing software for face annotation and emotion recognition, with the goal of creating an automated facial pose recognition pipeline. This will be used along with video and electrocorticography (ECoG) data to gain insight into possible associations between naturalistic brain recordings and behavior. He is especially interested in computer vision and machine learning, and hopes to continue working in those fields.
2017 WRF Innovation Post-baccalaureate Fellows:
Comron Ganji (2017 fellow) is a post-baccalaureate researcher working with Steve Perlmutter in the Physiology and Biophysics department. Comron’s research uses the Neurochip, a brain-computer interface, to induce spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP) following a spinal cord contusion injury in a rat model. He will be using the Neurochip to explore which type of recording/stimulating patterns can best induce STDP as a means to aid in recovery of motor function following a spinal cord injury. Comron attended the University of Washington where he received a bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology with departmental honors.
Natalie Koh (2017 fellow) is a post-baccalaureate researcher working with Andrea Stocco in Psychology and Thomas Grabowski in Radiology. Natalie’s research uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to determine if it is possible to bias the retrieval of specific types of memories. The goal of her work is to inform current human brain-to-brain interfacing paradigms. Natalie is also broadly interested in the development of brain-computer interfaces and neural prosthetics for clinical use. She graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology (with Honors) in 2016, and was a recipient of the Mary Gates Research Scholarship award and the Guthrie Prize for best empirical paper.
Emily Kubota (2017 fellow) is a post-baccalaureate researcher working with Jason Yeatman at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. Emily’s research focuses on understanding the function of the ventral temporal cortex (VTC) in perception. She is currently examining how task demands affect activation in the VTC using fMRI studies, and eventually hopes to expand her work to see whether these patterns of activation can be used to predict behavioral data, such as reading scores in individuals with Dyslexia. Emily recently graduated from Pomona College with a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science.
From the UW EE department: “This professorship is built on the Hwangs’ shared vision of making life better for those with paralysis. It supports the critical advancement of rehabilitation technologies for spinal cord injury and stroke. The nature of this research requires a multi-disciplinary approach.”
“The selection of Professor Rao is ideal,” Mr. Hwang said. “His work lays the groundwork for research on developing a device-based rehabilitation technology to improve the quality of life of people with spinal cord injury and brain damage.”
“I am truly honored to be named the inaugural CJ and Elizabeth Hwang Professor of CSE and EE,” Rao said. “I regard the Professorship as a recognition of the great collaborative effort of the students, faculty and staff at our center [CSNE] over the past 6 years that has made UW a premier destination for neural engineering in the world. We are extremely grateful to the Hwang family for their generosity in accelerating the center’s efforts to build devices that will improve the quality of life of people with spinal cord injury and other neurological conditions.”
AWIS says: “Emily is an expert in machine learning and a leading researcher in redefining the scope and nature of applied statistics. She is a leader in developing computationally realistic modeling tools for complex data sets. In addition to teaching and advising at University of Washington, she co-created an online course about machine learning. She was recently recognized by President Obama with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Emily fosters the development of other women in science through her visible success and being approachable and available as a mentor and counselor.”