Although I’m working in a geology lab, the Kirschvink Paleomagnetics Laboratory, I am primarily running electroencephalogram (EEG) experiments. An EEG is an easy way to non-invasively measure brainwaves. In a previous post, I showed you all a picture of me in the cap, which contains 64 different electrodes and tons of wires. We have caps in all different sizes here, allowing us to run virtually any subject who is willing and able. Along with EEGs, Caltech is also home to MRIs, TMSs and other advanced neuroscience equipment– it’s really awesome to be in a place where as an undergraduate, I can work with cutting-edge technology!
Today was one of the days I spent working with the EEG. My goal was to test itsability to record visual saccades, the quick movements made by our eyes between various fixation points. While eye trackers can easily detect this movement, they are generally made out of magnetic materials. Since we’re a magnetics laboratory, that technology can add artifacts to the data. However, the EEG is completely non-magnetic!
My first step was to create a program in Matlab that flashes squares onto different parts of the screen. I’m not much of a programmer, so this task took me a while. I learned so much about how to code, though, and had a great time! I then took my work back to the lab, stuck some EEG electrodes on my face, sat down in front of a computer, and measured how long it took for a saccadic response to be initiated after the square appeared.
While that all was super fun and rewarding, my lab mates figured out something else that was even more interesting that we could do with an EEG: we could run an EKG!
We figured out that if we placed one of the electrodes over our hearts, we could see our heart beats in the EEG data! As you can see from the picture, our data looks almost as clean as a real heart monitor in the hospitals! Luckily, this test did not give me any surprise news: my heart beats look perfectly normal!
Here's the EEG/EKG data!