Cognitive Neuroscience Master's Thesis
RESEARCH, WRITING, & STRATEGY
As a storyteller at heart, I excelled at developing the narrative of my graduate research which focused on traumatic brain injury. This included staying up to date with the latest research trends in neuroscience, carefully reading related studies, and distilling complex ideas into clear writing. I also brainstormed and collaborated on research strategy, findings, and conclusions with my lab team at the City University of New York. My most significant personal finding is that great research is great storytelling, a philosophy I applied in writing my master's thesis in Cognitive Neuroscience.
Mapping brain regions
To better understand traumatic brain injury, I studied its effects on blood flow in the brain, thought to be an important indicator of brain function. I used a mapping technique that connects established brain regions to blood flow data. This technique required extensive research into brain structure and function, blood flow, and brain imaging methods. The figure below shows a subset of the brain regions examined in my study. These regions are shown from left to right in the frontal, middle, and horizontal planes of the brain.
Blood flow across brain regions
A key storytelling device I used in my research writing was using visualizations to help communicate the research's narrative. As you can see in the graphs below, there are subtle blood flow differences in the brains of healthy individuals compared to those with traumatic brain injury. This is likely due to damaged blood vessels that can occur as a result of traumatic brain injury. While the differences may be difficult to discern due to the noisy nature of brain imaging data, these data visualizations help to highlight the signal-to-noise problem often present in brain imaging data.
Boosting the data's signal
To overcome the challenge of the noisy nature of brain imaging data, I used specialized algorithms to reduce the noise and boost the signal from the blood flow data. Illustrated in the brain scans below, which show the same patient before and after noise reduction. As you can see, the raw data brain scan has lower contrast than the scan with noise reduction. This increase in contrast indicates that the noise reduction algorithms were successful in enhancing the signal from the raw blood flow data, which was essential for my analysis and for future research using this data.
Brain regions involved in traumatic brain injury
I also conducted analyses to investigate the most significant brain regions involved in traumatic brain injury. The results showed that traumatic brain injury is correlated with changes in blood flow in specific brain regions that are consistently affected across patients. These brain regions are known to play important roles in cognitive functions that are often impaired in patients with traumatic brain injury. This is a meaningful discovery as it may lead to the development of more effective and targeted treatment options