May 2018 – The training month

I named this month the training month, because I attended two training courses:

  1. fMRI-training: 3 sessions in the 3T MRI scanner in the Scanexus facilities of Maastricht Brain Imaging Centre (M-BIC). I entered the certified user (CU) training, so that I can scan without supervisor. The last step of this training is a supervised scanning session and I will do that when I will be piloting my experiment in August.
  2. Problem-based learning (PBL) training: two intensive sessions on the teaching/tutoring method in Maastricht University,  led by Wladimir van Mansum. A couple of things to remember from this training:
    1. An extended introduction helps the group to become one team, even though it might seem like a waste of time in the beginning.
    2. The tutor assists the discussion, doesn’t give the answers.
    3. Whatever happens, be transparent about it and focus on building team spirit.
    4. Students learn by explaining things, let them do it.
    5. Do not guide too much, do not moderate the discussion, stay in the background and interviene only when they are side-tracking.

Update on the stimuli

This is not the best news, as it was not possible to find enough material on the public domain, which would satisfy all my exprimental conditions (stories, isochronous poems) and control parameters (clear audio, 2 male and 2 female speakers).

We are now exploring the option of hiring speakers. But first, we need to find the appropriate texts to be read out for the experiment materials. The good news is that I have help from a motivated student who is doing an internship in our lab. She’s called Anna, she’s German and she is at the age of my prospective participants. These features qualify her very well to help with the selection of the texts, so that they are not familiar to the target population. Lisa Goller, a PhD student in the BAND-LAB, helped with clarifying the kind of poems we are looking for, as she is very knowledgable in German literature and meter in poetry. I am very happy to have this help, as I didn’t feel adequate to choose poems in German, just by listening to them, as I previously did on librivox. I did hear some beautiful poems, though, see Unverwüstlich by Kurd Laßwitz (I note just a part of it):

“Ich glaube, daß du neben mir
Zum Zentrum dich gerichtet
Zuerst, da als Atome wir
Zur Sonne uns verdichtet.
Wir flogen dort schon Arm in Arm
Beim ersten Gravitieren,
Und wurden so gemeinsam warm
Und konnten oszillieren.”

It talks about oscillations, how relevant! 🙂

Questionnaire on musical background

I will use the Montreal Music History Questionnaire (Coffey, E. B. J., Herholz, S. C., Scala, S., & Zatorre, R. J. (2011, June). Montreal Music History Questionnaire: a tool for the assessment of music-related experience in music cognition research. In The Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning and Memory, Conference. Edinburgh, UK.), in order to asses musical expertise (and the lack thereof) for the experiment participants. For NERHYMUS, we will include language background information. I have planned a skype meeting with Emily Coffey (13th of June), in order to get acquainted with modifying the online version of the questionnaire to include a section on language background.

Ethics application (GOOD NEWS!)

The Ethics Review Committe of Psychology and Neuroscience (ERCPN) reviewed my ethics application on May 14th and they had some questions and comments. I had a friendly and very useful meeting with two members of the committee (Felix Dücker and Fren Smulders), in which they clarified the committee’s comments. Then, I did the suggested modifications in the application, resubmitted the application in the portal and (bam!) received the approval on May 30th. Perfectly on time, according to my timeline. I am very happy about this.

TMS application and equipment

In the meeting with the representatives of the ethics committee I was advised to modify the procedure of the fMRI session, so that I have the TMS right before they go into the scanner. The EEG cap needs to be fitted before TMS, too. The question was then, which equipment I would use. I was advised to contact Lars Hausfeld, who has relevant experience with TMS an fMRI. In our meeting he advised me not to use the EGI system of Scanexus, because the electrodes are too thick and the TMS pulse does not reach the cortical areas. He recommended using the equipment of the NIBS lab, which is MRI- and EEG-compatible. I still have to check with them, whether they have 32 or 64 electrodes, though. A pleasant surprise in this meeting, Lars is also working with modeling continuous auditory signal, so we can collaborate in data analysis.

My computer arrived on May 7th! BUT I am now using Windows.

Interview for promoting FPN research projects

In the beginning of May I met with Thom Frijns of the FPN Marketing & Communication Department, in order to promote the research that is going on in the department. The questions were about the funding scheme (MSCA), my research history and the project itself. He came to the meeting with a cell phone to record speech and with a camera with a huge lense. I was scared of the camera at first, but then the interview went smoothly that I was happy to pose for a couple of pictures (phew, so vain). I am looking forward to the online article.

Trying to stay serious for the picture. (Credit: Thom Frijns)

Meeting about school visits

In mid May I met with Ellen Krijnen, who works at the central marketing department and is responsible for the recruitment of Dutch (mostly Bachelor’s) students to Maastricht University, and Isabelle Grosch, my colleague from the FPN Marketing & Communication Department. I explained them the plans for school visits, which were included in my MSCA proposal. Ellen can be the link to local schools and we will follow up on this later in the summer. The first meeting was very inspiring and I am looking forward to sharing the scientific knowledge on rhythm with high school students. I am especially excited about the possibility to inspire young generations to think like researchers.

Preparation for the 1st Empsy summer school

The last couple of days I am madly preparing for the 1st Empsy summer school on the 4th-8th of June 2018, in which I am teaching Introduction to Eye-tracking. There are two reasons to be nervous: 1. I have never taught a whole-week course before, it’s going to be intense, and 2. I will be teaching in my old university and I feel responsibility in making the course attractive and useful to students. I hope to see a couple of enthusiastic faces along with sparkling eyes for research; that will be enough to keep me going for the week. In this course, I have invited my best friend Vassilis Krassanakis to be a guest teacher for one of the five sessions. It is a pleasure to work with good friends. I am also bringing advertising material for the prestigious MSc programmes of Maastricht University (UM) to the students of the 1st Empsy summer school. Who knows, maybe some will choose to do the Research Masters in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience at UM.


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