July was generally busy with: TMS-relevant training and decisions, choosing suitable texts for stimuli, modifying the MMHQ for NERHYMUS, and the individualized Dutch course at the Language Center of Maastricht University.
In the beginning of July I presented my project proposal to the Brain Stimulation and Cognition group (BSC, led by Alexander Sack). Sonja was present. The group gave me very useful comments/suggestions of what to think about when applying TMS.
- As previously suggested by the fMRI group, the BSC group also suggested I separate the acquisition of EEG and fMRI data into two experiments. In the previous blog post (about June) I have outlined the reasons that this separation would make sense. The main advantage is the better data quality for both methods. We therefore decided to do two experiments: first, one with EEG-TMS and next another one with fMRI-TMS combination.
- TMS protocol: We will use continuous Theta Burst Stimulation (cTBS), once before measurement. This protocol comprises of 50Hz pulses (every 2s) for 40s in total. This is a classical inhibitory rTMS protocol, which will be applied on the right preSMA (for right-handed people).
- What is the exact hypothesis. The up/down-regulation of theta activity in the preSMA should interfere with rhythm perception, in specific the subpart of beat extraction.
- What is the best control condition: sham or a control site? For the moment we decide for sham. In this way our results would be able to conclude about brain stimulation interfering with the rhythm network, not in specific with the preSMA. As it is the first study to stimulate rhythm perception during story comprehension, we start by establishing the effect of the network. Next steps (possibly in a VENI grant) could target other nodes of this network and investigate their co-ordination for rhythm perception. Remaining open question: what would a good control site be?
- How to define the stimulation site individually? We will use a structural MRI scan and the Neuronavigation system. The preSMA region will be anatomically localized.
- The specific procedure: first do the EEG setup in the EEG lab at UNS40, then go to the TMS lab at UNS40 (floor -1) for the rTMS and then go back up to the EEG lab for the measurements. This procedure was suggested by Theresa Schumann and approved by Franc Donkers.
- I was put in contact with Stefano Gallotto and I helped him a couple of times with his experiment in order to familiarize myself with the neuronavigation system and with the TMS application.
- After I have settled the details of the procedure, I will present to this group again when the set up is finalized.
Anna (Otta) and I have been working closely on choosing suitable stimuli, but are not yet done in the end of July. Vacation followed so we continued with this task in August, see update on this in the August blog post.
I modified the MMHQ; I inserted a checkbox (default unchecked) with which participants agree to their anonymized data to be stored in encrypted university servers. This is the exact wording of the information “Experiment Information: This questionnaire will collect non-identifiable data on e.g. language background, music experience, dance performance. This data will be anonymized, encrypted and safely stored in servers of Maastricht University. Please confirm that you are aware of and agree with the following data collection and with the mentioned conditions of data storage.” and of the checkbox: “I confirm that I have read the abovementioned conditions and agree with the outlined data collection and its storage conditions.”. Participants also need to fill in their participant number or code and the date they completed the questionnaire. This is how it looks like:
The Dutch course was a real blast. I participated in this together with Anna Sagana, a new assistant professor in Forensic Psychology at UM. Our teacher was Petrie Roefs, she did a very good job in individualizing the course to our needs. On the last day I gave a 5-minute laymen presentation of NERHYMUS in Dutch. It was good fun and I realized I can speak and explain more if I am given enough time to think and if the topic is my own research.
In the end of July I left for Italy (Lecce) for vacation.
Then I flew from there to England (Chichester) for the MMM summer school. I came back on the 8th of August. The next blog post on August will take it from here.