FYErtility, Creationism, and Readbaiting Titles

In my FYE a man named Dennis McEnnerney played professor. He did outstandingly. During some of our discussions he would claim that the small liberal arts college scene was a matchmaking business in disguise. He would claim that going to one of these colleges was a way for young, fertile, intelligent, upper-class lads and lassies to meet each other and fall in love and create more fertile, intelligent, upper-class lads and lassies.

It’s an interesting theory. It seems somewhat true, though maybe applicable to all relationships, not just romantic ones. Other applicable relationships include friendships and professionalships (cross those fingers for that last one being true).

I think that Boston is the city version of Dennis’s theory. Greater Boston has over 20 colleges, including Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Tufts, BU, BC, Northeastern… the list goes on. Then people graduate and stay to take on biotech jobs and launch start-ups. Boston is brimming with young, intelligent, upper-class lads and lassies. And if you’re curious, Here is how fertile Massachusetts is (in a lot of words). Public Announcement: no one told me to censor myself in this “blogging about your time at EyeWire” thing, and so I’m interpreting it loosely.

Here’s another photo of me at a desk.

Back row: super cool eyewire neuron poster F]Front row from left to right: the edge on a monitor, a stuffed neuron, a mini glass neuron sculpture thingy majig, me.

Back row: super cool eyewire neuron poster
Front row from left to right: the edge on a monitor, a stuffed neuron, a mini glass neuron sculpture thingy majig, me.

I made a lesson plan for secondary school teachers who want to use EyeWire to teach neuroscience in the classroom. It’s estimated to take 3 hours. An average class at CC is 3 hours. Coincidence? Yeah… but like even so maybe CC should teach my lesson…

I doubt the audience for the block features blog is thick with secondary school biology, psychology, and technology teachers but here’s my lesson plan and holla at me if you do fit that description.

Other things I’ve been up to at EyeWire: Emailing, odds-and-ends, using words such as “collaboration” and “gamification”.

I had a thought way back in the day when I found out that I would be working on education outreach with EyeWire. Here is the thought: I am taking a field of research (connectomics) that is controversial and still in its exploratory stage, and I am promoting it to be taught to children and teens in school. What separates me from someone who promotes creationism in schools? I know, I know, I know… it’s a huge stretch to compare these two things but I think it was valid to question my job, if only for a moment. I found that the biggest thing that makes my curriculum different is that I end my lesson asking teachers to promote critical thinking, and to hope for students to have questions that cannot yet be answered. I’d like to help motivate students to have their own thirst for knowledge. Enough thirst that they pursue knowledge independently. I wonder if anyone will use my lesson plan. Probably, I guess. I’m glad I’ll be miles away from whoever does, because just the idea of it makes me nervous. And feeling this way makes me feel young.

Desk Job Jests

Due to the “desk job” -esque nature of my last week at EyeWire, here are the photos I have taken:

Me at my desk. Pictured from left to right: Monitor #1, Monitor #2, Nina Friedman. (I have not reached 3 monitor abilities yet, see last post for details). Also pictured: 3D printed neurons mapped by EyeWirers. Unreasonably cool.

Me at my desk. Pictured from left to right: Monitor #1, Monitor #2, Nina Friedman. (I have not reached 3 monitor abilities yet, see last post for details). Also pictured: 3D printed neurons mapped by EyeWirers. Which are out-of-this-world-unreasonably cool.

It looks like the 3D printed neurons shown are a bistratified ganglion cell and a J Cell, both found in a mouse retina, but both common to human retina. as well.

Me in the elevator leaving my building at the end of the day. Can you say #thrillsoftheofficelife 5 times fast?
Me in the elevator leaving my building at the end of the day. Can you say #thrillsoftheofficelife 5 times fast?

Work isn’t actually boring. I still get to play on the internet (read: look up cool neuroscience content and blog). I just have to make fun of the office life, especially as a shout of to my CC student readers. I know y’all say you would never take a desk job, but desk jobs can be exciting too. And though I work at a desk, I’m allowed to leave it to go to the bathroom, for lunch, for calls ect. I am told this is the case with many desk jobs, and I encourage you to consider it as an option, due to the perks of playing with many monitors.

Below in pink you will find the golden product of my time so far at EyeWire.

I recommend this link to middle and high school science teachers and others looking for interactive online intro neuroscience content. If you don’t fall in those categories, hope you enjoyed mah pics.

**************~~~~~>EyeWire Edu Blog Post <~~~~~**************


I went to the Jewish Community Day School in Watertown to speak about EyeWire during the middle school STEM day. Presenting is always difficult for me but this day was fun nonetheless. The kids were super psyched on science and this has provided me with an opportunity to directly chat with some teachers who know more about curriculum development than I do. They’re also my consumer. The teachers are receiving the curriculum I create, and they know what they need.

Ways the wonderful institution of Colorado College prepared me for this day: I taught classes to some of the students of Colorado Springs as an outreach assignment for my Neuroscience and Organic Chemistry courses. Also the CC Psych department requires students to lead lectures and discussions during 400-level courses. Shout out to Colo Coll.

Marissa (a gamemaster) and I. I swear that right outside the frame are inspired preteens.

Marissa (a gamemaster) and I. I swear that right outside the frame are inspired preteens.

Tidbits of knowledge I have due to my internship. The Laws of the Internet state that if I number these then this post will be more popular:

1. It doesn’t matter if you speak the same language, you will not understand each other if there is a big difference in dialect. All of my coworkers speak English. Some of them speak computer-programmer-developer dialect. All of them speak tech dialect. I will probably have a metaphorical nightmare soon where I am at a long dining room table with all of my coworkers, but instead of food on the table there will be handwritten APIs, raid cards, and tablets filled with databases. And one of my coworkers will say “Hey Nina! Can you pass the OS Platform for MySQL?” My gaze will dart between the unfamiliar objects on the table. And then in my confusion I wake up.

2. Someday will always need to be the first day that I speak up. I good at talking with one or two people, and I can talk in larger groups when I’m called upon by another person. In large groups, I struggle to speak out unprompted. This applies to EyeWire, CC class discussions, and life. At EyeWire group meetings I’ve spoken here and there, and I don’t necessarily need to talk in every group meeting. But if I have something to say, shyness should not be the reason I hold back.

3. A Squid must be at least 20 inches to be classified as a Giant Squid. My new big task is to create a list of science trivia questions for a bot to spit out during the next EyeWire competition. If you play in the upcoming Cryptozoology themed competition, you now may have the tools to answer one of the questions (see the beginning of this paragraph for further clues).

4. Fame does not always mean fortune. EyeWire is hot- it was featured heavily in the media for a couple of years now, most recently as the cover story of New York Times Magazine, and even in the Chinese media. Before coming to EyeWire, if I had seen a project on the cover of anything important I’d think: “Cool, this project has made it. They are doing well, they have succeeded.” But no- publicity is sometimes only a nudge towards huge cash flow. And with EyeWire, each time it hits the media is clearly is only a nudge; only a tiny bragging point when the company tries to score grants.

5. Faking it til you make it is real. I don’t know much yet, and I’m not really supposed to. You have to stumble while you pretend to have a clear plan the first time you do anything. But what’s even more real than faking it is asking questions. Then you won’t have to fake it because you’ll learn things, and know them for the future.

6. All of the cool adults use at least three monitors at a time. I don’t really understand how to use more than one monitor yet. I have three desktops on my mac, but they’re all on the screen directly in front of me. It’s hard to type and have your words pop up way off to your right. This takes a lot of coordination- who knew geeks had so much coordination?

More snow photos- we are now at 7feet with no sight of it slowing down. These are relevant because the photographer(credit to Will Silversmith) and the other photograph-ie(Chris) are EyeWire HQ employees:
DSC01759 DSC01761

Making snowcones from real snow.

Making snowcones from real snow.



Human Neuropsychology, Weeks 3 & 4

Today is the start of Block 6, which means I actually finished up with Human Neuropsychology last Wednesday when Block 5 ended. BUT, I wanted to be sure I didn’t leave my story unfinished. The last week of Block 5 was hectic and busy, but of course filled with amazing experiences. Here are the highlights: 1) a field trip to Craig Hospital in Denver, 2) a field trip to the International Neuropsychological Society conference in Denver, 3) preparing and giving a lecture, and finally 4) writing a critical review paper.

During third week, we went up to Denver two days in a row. First we went to Craig Hospital, a world-renowned neuro-rehabilitation facility. Visiting Craig was so valuable. We learned about their mission as a hospital and got a tour of the facilities. Craig Hospital has a very well-rounded and holistic approach to neuro-rehabilitation. They house families of the brain/spinal cord injured patient for up to 30 days at the hospital because they recognize just how important family support is during the healing and recovery process. They also help injured patients not only learn how to perform basic daily functions given their new situation, but they help them have fun. They help them enjoy things they may have never thought possible given their injury. The atmosphere was so positive at the hospital — which I didn’t expect, but I so appreciated that.

Craig Hospital has a gym that aids brain and spinal cord injured patients learn to be active again (in any capacity, whether that’s learning to stand again, walk, run, etc). Image Source: http://kdvr.com/2014/12/09/colorado-gives-day-craig-hospital/

The day after we visited Craig Hospital, we made our way back up to Denver for the International Neuropsychological Society (INS) conference. The conference had poster sessions as well as talks we could attend to learn about some of the recent research in the neuropsychology field. The last talk of the day, and probably my favorite, was a talk by Michael Gazzaniga. Gazzaniga is responsible for a lot of work done with split-brain research. In other words, what happens when the two hemispheres of the brain no longer communicate with each other. Gazzaniga didn’t speak about any current research during his talk, but instead gave a keynote speech about his overall journey and often encouraged the audience to “just do it” when it comes to research and investigating the unknown.

Image Source: http://www.ilc-ins.org/images/ins.gif

I was responsible (along with an awesome partner) for teaching the class the Friday afternoon after our two field trips. Needless to say, I was exhausted. Lecturing is already difficult, but exhaustion makes it harder. My partner and I spent the week before our lecture reading the material, making notes and trying to find SOME way to create an intriguing and organized 90 minute lecture on our topic— emotional disorders. Thankfully, we powered through and our efforts paid off. This was the second time I had given a lecture at CC, and both times that hardest part was synthesizing the information into a good lecture. You can’t teach everything in the textbook. You don’t have time and it bores your audience. You have to teach the way you’d want to learn. And that’s hard. My partner and I chose a topic that unfortunately had a vague and somewhat disorganized chapter in the textbook. We weren’t given much structure to start with… but in order to engage the class and ensure that we actually taught them something, we had to think of a way to put some structure to the material, which was TOUGH. So, there were all of the challenges of normally preparing a lecture PLUS our exhaustion —  but we still succeeded! I took a long nap after that afternoon.

To end the block, we also had a critical review paper to finish up. I won’t bore any of you with the details of writing the paper (nobody wants to hear about that, we all know what that’s like, ha!). I will, however, share with you all what I wrote my paper on because that’s not boring. I wrote my paper on a neuropsychological disorder called Capgras Syndrome. Individuals with Capgras Syndrome believe that a close friend or family member has been replaced by an identical looking imposter. Crazy, right? So, if I went up to my mom I’d think that that wasn’t actually her, but an imposter who looks exactly like her. The idea behind this disorder is that the region in the brain that recognizes faces is functioning just fine, but this region is not communicating with the limbic system (which is all about emotional processing). An individual sees a familiar person and recognizes who he/she is but no longer feels any emotional response when recognizing that person. So the brain makes stuff up. If you don’t feel anything when seeing a familiar person, it must not be them, right? I wrote my paper on whether or not the basis for this syndrome is neurological (e.g., structural problems in the brain) or psychiatric (e.g., another cause that’s not brought on by any physical changes in the brain). I came to the conclusion that there may be pure Capgras Syndrome (in which the individual has no other psychological abnormalities except for these delusions) and Capgras-like symptoms (in which an individual has these delusions among many other delusional thoughts or psychological abnormalities). Capgras Syndrome appears to be neurological in origin, whereas many Capgras-like symptoms can occur from a psychiatric origin and are often comorbid with other psychiatric issues such as paranoid schizophrenia.

So, there it is. My reflections on the end of the block. I loved this class. For any neuroscience or psychology majors, I highly recommend it. You can’t NOT be interested in the material, our professor, Kristi, is awesome and you learn so much. I enjoyed sharing my experiences with all of you taking the time to read this. Please let me know if you’d like to hear more! I could talk about this stuff for hours.


Just kidding I have work tomorrow. Let’s see where I left off… Well there has been another snowstorm so that’s another 1.5 feet on Boston. I didn’t work Tuesday because the MBTA stopped service. Every transportation method, even walking, was non-functional.

And what do you have to say about this, Shel Silverstein?

And what do you have to say about this, Shel Silverstein?

When I have been in the office, I have experienced Google Hangouts(video calls) non-stop. A Hangout over here, a Hangout over there, Hangouts left and right. I wonder what people did just 5 years ago when this wasn’t a thing? We Hangout with Sebastian, with the part of EyeWire that’s with him at Princeton, with office members when they work from home and when they travel. We Hangout with the crew that’s in the office 15 feet down the hall. And almost half of the time it goes smoothly! The other half of the time there are internet failures, audio failures, video failures ect. There are almost enough failures to make me question why we Hangout so much. Cumulatively, we may spend hours a week trying to fix the malfunctions of Hanging out. Or at least it feels that way. But all that said, there’s something really magnificent about being able to see a person as they speak, especially when everyone is scattered beyond two locations. It’s easier to coordinate who’s speaking, who’s listening, and how everyone feels about what’s going on. It’s easier to pay attention and verify that you are communicating clearly. I guess easy access to video chat is a pretty cool opportunity. I just wish that setting up wasn’t such an ordeal. I also thought about how little Google Hangout is probably used on the CC campus in comparison. Are we behind times CC or are we all just concentrated in a smaller space?

Ok! Time for a super fun topic. “Business Flirting”. No, I’m not talking about scoring yourself a date, though I did join Tindr to try to meet people/friends/climbers in area.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.35.22 AM

What’s this “modesty” you speak of?

It’s Thursday evening, I’m wrapping up my week at work, and the sound of hustling and bustling is growing in the building’s large common/social space, which is down the hall. Jazz music begins. It’s another company’s launch party, and it’s getting busy. Our office decides to close up shop for the evening and join the party in an effort to connect with other people who work in our building. Also for the free entertainment/food/booze/fun. A few of us begin to chat with a couple of guys from another start-up. They’re nice, fun, a couple drinks in. We’re all chatting; I lean in when I have something to say because the music is loud. I’m explaining what EyeWire does, trying to advertise it and show it off. I’m laughing, and making jokes myself.

I think to myself, hm, this is just like flirting but I’m showcasing my company and myself as a worker while trying to avoid showcasing myself as a mate. But then again… what’s the difference between these two demonstrations? Some of my coworkers leave and some get separated. Now it’s just me and one guy from the other company. I guess we’re talking about slightly different stuff than if we were at a bar… but maybe we aren’t. If we were at a bar, we would talk about work too. We begin to discuss his past Colorado ski trip, as I had brought up that I had recently moved from the state. Now this is becoming a challenge. Can I maintain that we are in this conversation together to Business Flirt and only to Business Flirt? Can I clearly advertise myself as a worker and not a mate? He brought up Colorado marijuana legalization and asked for my number. Damn. I had failed. Well, I’ll put this on my To Do list. “Master the difference between Flirting and Business Flirting: Keeping it Fun, Compelling, and Professional”.
I guess next time I have to Business Flirt, there probably will be brighter lighting, less noise, and less alcohol. I think in a different context maybe I’ll be able to add this particular checkmark to my to-do list.


And to wrap up the post, more of my commentary on snow:

Boston is hosting an interpretive reenactment of “That Child Who Pretends He Ate Spaghetti But Really He Just Pushed the Spaghetti To the Sides of the Plate”

Boston: The Plate
Snow: The Spaghetti
Plow: The Fork
I think Charlie Baker is the boy… sorry, but you auditioned I guess.

The Effect of Snow on Nina

ABSTRACT In the following experiment 26 inches of snow were dumped on Boston and we measured the amount of time it took for Nina to get to work with low functioning public transport. The following week we dumped 14 inches on Boston to check for a significant difference in travel time. In the second trial the participant caught a ride with a Lebanese Oral Surgeon/Harvard Professor she found on Comm Ave and this extraneous variable invalidated results. No pepper spray was needed in the conduction of this experiment but the IRB guys are still mad.

Hi guys. Boston snow is outta control. It looks like this:


I only worked one day last week because the state was shut down. I didn’t even know a state could shut down.

So what I did when I was working: After educational YouTube video binging for 3 days I created a few playlists on the EyeWire YouTube channel. I forgot to log off and watched some Kanye before realizing, altering EyeWire’s suggested videos. Ob la dee. Then it was the weekend, and Saturday was the date that some of EyeWire Korea was tripping to Boston. Jung-Man Park, who runs EyeWire Korea, a couple of reporters, and five Korean EyeWire contest winners would all come to the headquarters. We met Jung-Man and the winning players at Headquarters, showed them around, and thanked them.

Front row in descending order of who's laughing the hardest: Nina, Marissa, Jung-Man, Amy, Chris, jay_ Back row from left to right: superrogin, kngskwon, tunerk7, and Mina

Front row in descending order of who’s laughing the hardest: Nina, Marissa, Jung-Man, Amy, Chris, jay_
Back row from left to right: superrogin, kngskwon, tunerk7, and Mina

Amy did a bit of business and some promotion, talking with the reporters. Those who were available went out to dinner with Jung Man. This ended up being me, Amy, and Chris. To backtrack- Chris is one of the developers in my office, Marissa in the photo holds the title of GameMaster**, and Mina is the Korean translator in our office. Dinner was super fun! Jung-Man was a cool guy, probably as cool as his name. Here’s us on the way to dinner(featuring the snow before it was a hassle)
Coming soon to a block features website near you: “Google Hangouts: A Critique”, “Curriculum, and Other Vague Words”, “Business Flirting: A Definition”
**GameMasters mostly act as administrators on the game, connecting with players, organizing in-game events and looking for mis-colorings.

Human Neuropsychology, Week 2

Imagine what it would be like to unknowingly ignore half of your world. Your vision is intact, but you have a severe a lack of attention directed towards an entire half of what you experience, almost as if you don’t actually see it, but you CAN. You can sense it, you just don’t attend to it. This is what patients with unilateral neglect, a type of attentional disorder, experience. It can occur after damage (a stroke, traumatic injury) to the brain, often to a region called the right inferior parietal lobe.

An example of how an individual with left hemispatial neglect may copy an image (left) and draw images of their own (right). The left side of the drawings are sparse or even completely ignored. Source: http://trialx.com/curetalk/wp-content/blogs.dir/7/files/2011/05/diseases/Neglect-2.gif

Imagine that you can speak with excellent fluency regarding intonation and speed, but it’s all gibberish. People try and tell you that you’re not making sense, and although you can hear others’ speech, you are unable to comprehend what they’re saying. They try to tell you that you’re not saying anything meaningful, but you’re unaware because you can’t understand them. This is what it’d be like to live with Wernicke’s aphasia, a speech disorder that can occur after damage to a region in the left temporal lobe. To see and hear how a patient with Wernicke’s aphasia may act and speak, I recommend this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVhYN7NTIKU.

Imagine that your arms and hands function perfectly fine and you’re able to move them, but if somebody verbally asks you to act like you’re brushing your teeth, you can’t. You know how to brush your teeth, and you know what it looks like, but you cannot physically bring your hand up to your mouth and brush an imaginary toothbrush back and forth when VERBALLY asked to do so. But, if somebody shows you what this movement would look like, you could mimic it just fine. This is what patients with a disorder called dissociation apraxia experience. They have trouble taking a verbal command and turning it into a complex movement. This deficit results from damage to the pathway in the brain connecting Wernicke’s area (the comprehension area of the brain) to an area of the brain where the “instructions” on how to perform a movement are stored (a.k.a motor engrams in the left angular and supra marginal gyri for anybody who wants that level of detail).


The connections from Wernicke’s area to the supramarginal and angular gyri may be damaged in patients with dissociation apraxia. Source: http://editthis.info/images/psy3241/f/f8/Angular_gyrus.jpg

Imagine, now, that you can spell words with great proficiency, but you can’t physically write them. You can write numbers, but not letters. You can even explain what letters look like in enough detail to others that they know what letter you’re talking about. But nevertheless, you can’t write the letters down. You can write the digit “0” (zero), but not the letter “O” (oh). Somebody with agraphia, an impairment in writing capability, may have these experiences. This may occur due to damage in the left hemisphere of the brain as well. [Student presenters discussed this specific case study in class: “When writing 0 (zero) is easier than writing O (o): a neuropsychological case study of agraphia” by Delzer, Lochy, Jenner, Domahs & Benke, 2002].

The disorders I briefly described above are just a handful of the countless disorders we learned about during week 2 of Human Neuropsychology. They are all so fascinating, and often resulted in mini-existential crises during our class discussions. Despite how cool and exciting these disorders are to learn about, if you think about what it would be like to actually have or know somebody with any these disorders it’s quite mind-numbing. Something I really appreciate about this class is that we learn about more than just the disorders themselves. We learn about how these disorders affect real people. One of our texts for class, Michael Mason’s “Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath”, provides personal accounts and experiences regarding traumatic brain injuries. Rather than an anatomy and science heavy text, it’s the human and emotional side of brain injuries, a perspective that’s equally important when learning about the brain.

We’ve also had the chance to personally meet and speak with an individual who sustained a traumatic brain injury. She came to class and told us her story, starting with a car accident, leading to a coma, and subsequently months of rehabilitation. Despite everything she had gone through she was unbelievably positive, which was an extraordinary thing to see and hear.

We also talk a lot about neuro-rehabilitation in general in this class, something that can often be overlooked when it comes to many neuropsychological  disorders but is of utmost importance. Sometimes rehabilitation can help with these disorders, but other times our current resources may not be sufficient. But realizing the impact of neuro-rehabilitation, when it’s available, is crucial.

Tomorrow, we will be visiting Craig Hospital in Denver, CO (http://craighospital.org). I am really looking forward to it! Thursday we will be heading back up to Denver to attend the International Neuropsychological Society’s 43rd annual meeting. Then, I’ll be lecturing on Friday about emotional disorders. It’s a packed week…but, that’s the block plan! I love it.


Monday Thru Friday Nina-Five

Recount of my first day in the office:
I’m sitting in South Station, the Grand Central of Boston, rightly lacking “grand” in its title. This is the train station nearest to my internship. Knowing myself as a chronic late arriver, I woke up 2.5 hours before I had to arrive, and I was able to leave 1.25 hours before I had to arrive. This meant that with 15 stops on the T(train), I still had about a half hour to walk to my destination. Nothing calms my nerves like simple math. I check my inbox on my phone and find a message from my soon-to-be boss. She asks if we can meet at Starbucks at 10:30 instead of in the office at 10. I say a silent prayer to the little person on my shoulder who suggested I buy my first smart phone this week. These things are clutch. My just-purchased Au Bon Pain latte and I walk to Starbucks. I have supported Starbucks enough to feel only mildly bad about my rude behavior. I sit down, and thought out my next plan of action. I have 15 minutes. I am currently reading Sebastian Seung’s book. Will it look staged if I am perched with it when my boss arrives? Will I merely look psyched to begin? Will she scoff at the fact that I haven’t already read it? Whatever, that is what I’m currently reading, I will read it. She arrives and does not notice the cover, but is friendly as ever.



We walk to the office where she explains the project I will be working on during my time at EyeWire. I will be designing a “curriculum” for high school and middle school teachers to use when they want to bring neuroscience into their classroom. Teachers around the world had used EyeWire as a prop while teaching a neuroscience unit, but they didn’t always contact EyeWire about their use. It was unclear how many teachers had used EyeWire in the classroom, and how successful their experience had been. The biggest indicator of classroom use was the cascade of underage hooligans that flooded the EyeWire chatroom with profanity during the weeks following their lessons. A useful way to track when EyeWire was in the classroom this was, but maybe there was a better way to track this. Instead there could be an official webpage where teachers could record their experience. So my “curriculum” would be this webpage- this is the place where I would post links to helpful neuroscience content on the web for use in classrooms, and teachers would post further resources and lesson plans they had designed. This sounded like an awesome project, but I had never designed a webpage before. Guess I gotta learn how to do that.

My boss, Amy, and I spent time watching youtube videos from educational channels. We watched on one of the ~8 computer monitors in the office that I would be sharing with Amy and two others. This particular monitor was a massive TV screen. Amy encouraged me to use the youtube video’s content in my webpage. Some of the channels with cool content are:

http://www.youtube.com/user/braincraftvideo…….http://www.youtube.com/user/Vsauce ……. http://www.youtube.com/user/Vsauce2………http://www.youtube.com/user/Vsauce3

As noon approached, my other office mates arrived. They are the company’s developers(coders): Will and Chris. Around noon two EyeWire women from the office down the hall join us. Everyone formed a casual circle and one at a time explained what they were working on. I had a flashback to spring break, outdoor ed trips and leader 1 training. Check-ins. I know this! They are playing professional rose-bud-thorn. My hippie heart got a little fuzzy. I would learn that this daily meeting happens once a day, and seemed to keep the tiny company unified. When the meeting finished Will excitedly mentioned that Claire was hosting a google hangout with an amazing neuroscientist, Christof Koch- we caught the tail end on the mega monitor!

Me sporting my "idk what's going on but it's awesome" face

Me sporting my “idk what’s going on but it’s awesome” face

Here’s a link to the hangout- watch if you have 1:44 hours to become inspired. (He used a rock climbing term at  1:11:30 what!!) You can also watch shorter videos of Christof’s talks if you do a google search.

I momentarily did some research and brainstorming for my curriculum project. Then Amy suggested we all go for Chinese. Amy, Will, Chris and I ventured to nearby Chinatown where we had a two hour long lunch break. We laughed, we talked about some computer science, we left to search for a bamboo plant to put in the office. We returned to the office around 4pm. I did a bit more brainstorming and then my first day had ended.

Wait WHAT?! I hope you are thinking something along the lines of:

“You’re telling me that the game that was recently featured on the cover of New York Times Magazine, the game that has 174,000 players, the game that gathered the data for this paper in Nature(CC gives you access thru the Tutt pg) is ‘run’ by a buncha folks that roll into the office round noon just to watch videos and then go out to eat.”

I mean that thought crossed MY mind. But as in the following days I found out that these guys start slow but worked late into the night. They are always some of the last ones to leave the building that hosts ~100 companies. They work as a team, with constant communication within the office and between the Princeton and Boston offices. They know how they work best. They all care so much about the well-being of the company so strict 9-5 schedules and productivity “inspiring” rules are unnecessary. Psych is always high. People bring work home with them, but they do so because they want to. To backtrack- this was not a typical lunch length at EyeWire but yes, everyone comes into the office around noon and the environment is casual. And I guess their hard work and style is paying off, because they’re getting recognized.

Since my first day at EyeWire I have ‘met’(over video chat) the Berkeley student that will be helping me with my project and I’ve excessively youtube binged. I’ve organized information and google searched. I’ve asked questions and listened in on many a google hangout. And I am preparing to do something with the information I’ve gathered.

My next post will be on what I’ve been working on, an opinion piece on the world of google hangouts, and some babbling about meeting Korean EyeWires.

**I looked further into Christoff Koch’s affiliation with rock climbing. He climbs a lot. And he neurosciences. *hand-fans face* This may be what love feels like.

Human Neuropsychology, Week 1

Happy block five, everyone! Actually, happy start of fifth block’s second week. First week flew by, as usual. My name is Jordyn for any of you who may not know me. I am a senior neuroscience major, biochemistry minor. I’m currently taking Human Neuropsychology, a 400-level senior seminar course with professor Kristi Erdal.
The class is fantastic so far. For so many reasons. To start, the subject matter is undoubtedly intriguing. Neuropsychology is the study of how the structure and function of the brain influence and mediate psychological processes (like memory or attention) and behavior. In our class we are talking a lot about what can go wrong and what deficits can arise from an insult to the brain. An insult may be physical trauma from a car accident, it could be death of brain tissue from a stroke, or it could be chemical damage from a toxin. Depending on the type of insult, and its location in the brain, a variety of deficits may develop. Discovering what those deficits are and subsequently leading the patient down the road to recovery are some responsibilities a clinical neuropsychologist may take on. Kristi, our professor, has training in this area. During class, she oftentimes includes personal stories of the types of injuries and deficits she’s seen in her patients.
Kristi is the second reason class has been fantastic so far. Kristi is fun to listen to. She always has interesting stories to add to lecture. She uses funny voices. She makes lecture an experience and something to look forward to. She’s entertaining. I highly recommend taking a class with her if you can. I will be taking one more course with her, Abnormal Psychology 7th block this spring, and I can’t wait.
This class is also great because of the students. It’s filled with bright, fun, passionate and dedicated people. Many of them, but not all, I have had classes with before. Your fellow peers in a class can really make or break the class, and I lucked out on this one— they’re all great.
The first day of week one consisted of going through a brief history of Neuropsychology and learning numerous vocab words and acronyms important to this field of study. We talk a lot in acronyms — TBI, MTBI, MRI, PET, VIQ, FSIQ, WAIS, etc.
Once we built a foundation of the language used by neuropsychologists we got to dive into the really fun stuff. We learned about different imaging techniques for the brain, and what each of these can tell you. MRI scans can show quite detailed images of the brain, but don’t tell you anything about the function of the brain. PET scans and fMRI scans can tell you about function and what parts of the brain may be active during a specific task, but have less resolution than strictly an MRI. I had learned about many of these imaging techniques before, but it was nice to learn more in depth what each can tell you and when they are appropriate to use.

A simple MRI scan of the brain. Resolution is quite good, but there is no information about function. Source: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_resonance_imaging


A PET scan can provide insight regarding function. Here, the red and yellow indicate areas of higher activity in the brain when an individual performed two tasks. The resolution of a PET scan is poor, but it offers functional information. Source: http://aids.hallym.ac.kr/d/kns/tutor/medical/01premed2/chapter45/petsh.html

Something else I really appreciate about Kristi is how interactive her classes are. Wednesday we talked about different neuropsychological assessments. How do we test somebody’s mental status? Their language? Visual-spatial functioning? Memory? Intelligence? What about executive functioning? Rather than a boring lecture of “this test can be used to test __________”, Kristi brought out neuropsychological tests and we ran through many of them ourselves. For example, the Rey Complex Figure can be used to test visual-spatial functioning.

The Rey Complex Figure. Source: http://editthis.info/psy3242/Rey-Osterreith_complex_figure

A person is shown an image, gets to view it for a short period of time, and then the image is taken away and the individual must draw the image. How the individual approaches drawing the figure, and what the figure looks like when they’re finished can provide insight regarding the health of parts of the brain important for visual-spatial abilities. We did this in class, and although many of us forgot some of the details, we were able to draw the figure with proficient success. However, an individual with damage to the right hemisphere may only draw the finer details of the image and lose sight of the overall, holistic image. Simple tests like this are very telling about brain functioning (if administered and interpreted appropriately).

An example of how an individual with right hemisphere brain damage may draw the Rey Complex Figure. Source: Ha, J.-W., Pyun, S.-B., Hwang, Y.-M., & Sim, H. (2012). Lateralization of cognitive functions in aphasia after right brain damage. Yonsei Medical Journal, 53, 486-494.

To end first week, we talked about perceptual disorders. We talked about disorders involving vision, hearing and tactile (touch) sensations. I could go on for hours (or, I guess, pages?) about these disorders. I’ll tell you about one of the most fascinating ones. Anton’s Syndrome is a visual perceptive disorder. Individuals with this disorder are blind, but they’re unaware of it. Think about that for a minute. Somebody cannot see the world around them, but they believe and act as if they can. How this type of deficit can arise is mind boggling, and the precise anatomy of the disorder is still incompletely understood. But essentially, in addition to damage that resulted in the blindness, there is a disconnect between the part of the brain that allows for vision and the area of the brain that allows for conscious awareness that you are in fact seeing. Patients may come up with excuses as to why they bump into chairs when walking or why they can’t identify an object when asked to do so visually. They may say “Oh, I just wasn’t paying attention when I bumped into that, clumsy me” or “Ahhh, I’m wearing my old glasses, can you bring it closer?” This is just ONE of many disorders we discussed on Friday alone. THEY ARE ALL SO COOL TO LEARN ABOUT. This coming week, we will learn about motor disorders, attentional disorders and language disorders. I am so excited. Something else unique about this class (and many other 400-level seminar courses in the psychology department) is that we will be learning from our peers. Rather than Kristi lecturing from now on, we will learn from our peers and we will teach our peers. It is an intimidating experience at first, but it is an incredibly worthwhile experience for everyone involved (my last class, PY433 Neuropharmacology was set up the set up the same way). I will be lecturing with another peer on emotional disorders the end of third week, and I’ll be sure to share my experience from the preparation of the lecture to the delivery of it when the time comes.
If you couldn’t tell already, I love this class, and I look forward to sharing my experience with you all!

The Search to Avoid Research

Where to start? What do I like to do? I like neuroscience, it would be cool to leave the country. Neuroscience job abroad, now that’s a lofty goal. Ok what else? The prison system fascinates me, though I have no background in that. I like to rock climb- what if I worked in rope access? I guess that would get cold in the winter. I could always just stall and do retail somewhere.


It was August at this point, the summer was winding down and I was on my way to my hometown in Massachusetts. I hadn’t been home in a while and I asked my mother if she knew of anyone who might know of a place I could work- she had recently begun a job in management of online courseware at MIT. She must have met a few important STEM-ers along the way. She knew a recent grad named Claire who was working on an online neuroscience course. I googled her, and found a her speaking at  TEDx.


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Woah! She’s about my age and she’s spoken at TEDx? How cool. As I watched the video I became more and more impressed with her accomplishments and stage presence. At the center of the video I became excited- she began talking about a project that had turned neuroscience lab work into an interactive computer game. This is what I’m interested in. In all honesty, the prospect of working in a science lab scared me- doing tedious, slow work and never being sure whether you’ll end up with a product. In  making this computer game, they’re taking research beyond the lab. Regardless of whether they find significant results in each individual project, they had a successful way to get to the results. This is cool. This is innovation. I wanted to be a part of this. If you didn’t have time to watch the video, EyeWire is a “Game to Map the Brain” where anyone, anywhere can create an account and trace their way through a branch of a neuron(brain cell) as it weaves and wanders throughout the retina- the part of the eye that translates light into electrical signals, which is the language of the brain. It’s kind of like a virtual, 3D, paint-by-numbers where a player receives points and powers by painting. If you are interested in playing, it requires no scientific background:

The Game Itself

jcell eyewire teaser

I emailed Claire about having brunch and discussing opportunities for me in the neuroscience field. It seemed weird to me, to email someone I’d never met and ask for a favor or connection. She would not know my credentials, my history, anything. I had done nothing for her. But I guess that’s how all this works- you ask anyone you can. And you expect nothing, you just hope. She sent me a message riddled with excitement and smiley faces. We met for brunch and she spoke about labs at MIT, I explained my interest in doing work outside conventional lab settings. I didn’t mention EyeWire, because it felt uncomfortable to mention that I listened to her speak for twenty minutes before meeting her. In hindsight that was silly. I should have brought it up, but luckily, she did.

Claire arranged a second brunch where I would meet two of the most important people at EyeWire, after which I would get to peek at their lab. I found a fantastic parking spot right outside of the cafe where we would be meeting, so moral was high. My car looked beat up and dusty after its recent cross country drive and encounter with a metal pole. But I thought I looked put together. Brunch went well- I tried my best not to be shy. On our way from brunch to the lab we passed my car and I suppressed my urge to break the current silence with the useless filler sentence “That’s my car”. I needed to removed association from my block-break road-trip lifestyle, for I was playing the role of Future Science Office Woman today. The “lab” was an office with lots of posters and a colorful couch and decorations. Everyone was under 30 years old. This was the hippest science lab ever. I received a brief tour and then everyone had to get back to work.

I returned home with excitement and confusion. This was the closest thing I would have to an interview with EyeWire and it was so unofficial. They said they were interested in having me intern, but on what principals? All I had shown them were my abilities to eat a sandwich and show some enthusiasm. I spent the next few months sending emails, and follow-up did-you-receive-my-last-email emails. I sent them my resumé and a writing sample but I think the realest thing I showed them was that my interest was big enough that I would not take silence as a “no”. Mere persistence doesn’t seem like a credential but I guess when it really comes working in the real world, skills can only get you so far while passion allows you to learn on the job, work diligently and put in an extra effort. That’s how I’m going to justify it all, but in a sense I fell into my internship. I showed up and it just happened. From this experience I hope to be able to keep my moral up when I apply to jobs in the future, because sometimes not getting a job will be random, just as receiving a position at EyeWire has been a bit random. In the future I might not know the right person or due to luck, the person I interview with will have already fallen in love with another applicant. And maybe another time, due to chance, I’ll just fall into a position.

Last week I began my internship with EyeWire, and my next post will be what I have done, seen, and thought so far.