June 2018 – The traveling month

This post comes a little bit delayed than normal, because during this month I was traveling a lot and I needed time to settle back at the end of the month. From 2-10/6 I went to Athens to teach a course entitled “Introduction to eye-tracking for psycholinguistics” at the 1st summer school of Experimental Methods in Pscycholinguistics (Empsy).

The students of the 1st Empsy

Then, I worked one full week in Maastricht 11-15/6. The next traveling for work was on the 18/6, when I was on my way to the 1st international Workshop on Predictive Processing (WoPP).

View from the workshop location, Miramar Palace.

From San Sebastian I flew directly to Crete for my friend’s wedding, which was a real blast. And when I came back on the 27/6 and worked for the last two days of June, there was only as much time to re-calibrate and get back to my list of tasks for NERHYMUS. There are therefore not many developments on the practical aspects of NERHYMUS this month, but more on the development of my own research agenda and personal character.

My impressions and reflections on my first intensive teaching experience at the summer school will be the topic of a separate post. I am therefore moving on to the developments on NERHYMUS, which happened the week of 11-15/6.

On June 12th I gave a presentation in a project proposal meeting of the fMRI group lead by Elia Formisano at the Cognitive Neuroscience department. The main comments on my proposal were:

  1.  Why do concurrent EEG-fMRI? If we want to go through the hassle of noisy EEG data and complicated set up, we should have a hypothesis that can only be answered with a concurrent design. Our design up to now does not motivate concurrent data acquisition.
  2. Think about how to model the fMRI response with the beats extracted from the audio signal, because of the different time resolution.
  3. Check sparse sampling as a possible solution to comment Nr. 2.

On June 13th I skyped with Emily Coffey in order to get a short overview of the Montreal Music History Questionnaire, which I will use for quantifying musical and dance expertise. I will add one section on language expertise and a clarification about ethics and data management, according to the EU GDPR.

Update on the Stimuli: Anna (the intern who is helping select the stimuli texts) has chosen poems that should suffice for 50 minutes of poem materials for the experiment. In beginning of July she is going to select stories and then I will take it from there on, to find speakers and calculate the budget for recording the audio stimuli.

Concurrent or not

Since the fMRI PPM I have been thinking about the pros and the cons of concurrent or non concurrent EEG-fMRI data acquisition. I have summarized these in the following table:

I discussed these points with Lars Hausfeld on Skype while I was at the WoPP in San Sebastian. His advice was similar to that which came up at the fMRI PPM; unless there is a clear hypothesis to be answered only with the concurrent design, there is not enough motivation to go for it. He favored a step-by-step build-up approach, in which I would combine EEG and offline TMS first and then continue with the combination of fMRI and offline TMS. With regard to comment Nr. 2 from the fMRI PPM, he suggested averaging the BOLD response within 1 minute, thereby creating a mini-block design.

The first WoPP was very interesting and scientifically stimulating. There were experts of different fields, who discussed their research of predictive processing under their understanding and following different frameworks. I observed inconsistencies in the terminology, which essentially arise from the adoption of different theoretical frameworks, but I would have welcomed a critical summary of all the presented approaches, at least of the ones that were included in the Symposia. It seems easy to me that each speaker tells their own story, but the most interesting part would have been an amalgamation of the available expertise into conclusions about predictive processing.

So this was June, in short. In July I aim to develop the experiment in more detail and progress on the stimuli and questionnaire. Also, I have planned a Dutch course which will take a significant part of my time, but it will be a good investment for the future.