Oscillatory Thoughts

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56 posts · 67,968 views

Although much of my time is spent thinking and talking about brains I hope that's not the extent of who I am or what I do. I get paid to think. About thinking. I love it. In May 2010 I received my Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California, Berkeley; I received my bachelors degree in psychology in 2002 from the University of Southern California. Specifically I study the role that neuronal oscillations play in human cognition, with a specific focus on the role that neuroplasticity plays in cognition. I work with patients with brain damage or implanted electrodes to learn about how different brain regions communicate in memory and attention. I study how patients with brain damage recover from stroke or other kinds of neurological damage.

Bradley Voytek
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  • March 14, 2014
  • 07:26 PM

The Passion Trap

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

The first email I ever sent was to Stephen Hawking. I sent the email in the spring of 1998 when I was 16 years old from a computer at my high school (because I didn't have internet at home) using a friend's AOL account. I had just finished reading Hawking's A Brief History of Time and knew that I wanted to be an astrophysicist (or a cosmologist). I emailed Hawking to tell him how much of an inspiration he was to me and how passionate I was about physics.Passion. Follow your passion. Fo........ Read more »

Vallerand, R., Blanchard, C., Mageau, G., Koestner, R., Ratelle, C., Léonard, M., Gagné, M., & Marsolais, J. (2003) Les passions de l'âme: On obsessive and harmonious passion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(4), 756-767. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.4.756  

  • October 26, 2013
  • 12:21 PM

Charles Trippy brain tumor resection video

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

We the Kings bassist and YouTube celebrity Charles Trippy recently uploaded to YouTube a video of his brain surgery.This is an amazingly powerful thing to watch and I recommend taking the time to do so if you have any interest in the brain and/or medicine that you watch it. It's... not an easy viewing though, so I warn you.I came across this video on reddit, and I took a shot at explaining the procedure and details over there. Most of what I've learned is from my research (e.g., A, B, C) in........ Read more »

Voytek B, D'Esposito M, Crone N, & Knight RT. (2013) A method for event-related phase/amplitude coupling. NeuroImage, 416-24. PMID: 22986076  

Voytek B, Secundo L, Bidet-Caulet A, Scabini D, Stiver SI, Gean AD, Manley GT, & Knight RT. (2010) Hemicraniectomy: a new model for human electrophysiology with high spatio-temporal resolution. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 22(11), 2491-502. PMID: 19925193  

  • October 18, 2013
  • 05:49 PM

What's "big data" good for?

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

First, what is "big data" other than literally just a lot of data. While it's more of a marketing term than anything, the implication of "big data" is usually that you have so much data that you can't analyze all of the data at once because the amount of memory (RAM) it would take to hold the data in memory to process and analyze it is greater than the amount of available memory.This means that analyses usually have to be done on random segments of data, which allows models to be built to compar........ Read more »

Schwartz HA, Eichstaedt JC, Kern ML, Dziurzynski L, Ramones SM, Agrawal M, Shah A, Kosinski M, Stillwell D, Seligman ME.... (2013) Personality, gender, and age in the language of social media: the open-vocabulary approach. PloS one, 8(9). PMID: 24086296  

Michel JB, Shen YK, Aiden AP, Veres A, Gray MK, Google Books Team, Pickett JP, Hoiberg D, Clancy D, Norvig P.... (2011) Quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books. Science (New York, N.Y.), 331(6014), 176-82. PMID: 21163965  

Song C, Qu Z, Blumm N, & Barabási AL. (2010) Limits of predictability in human mobility. Science (New York, N.Y.), 327(5968), 1018-21. PMID: 20167789  

C. Thiemann, F. Theis, D. Grady, R. Brune, & D. Brockmann. (2010) The structure of borders in a small world. PLoS ONE. arXiv: 1001.0943v1

  • September 10, 2013
  • 08:32 PM

Does North Korea publish peer-reviewed science?

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

To answer this I looked to Pubmed, which is the biomedical peer-review research search engine run by the National Library of Medicine of the US National Institutes of Health.Pubmed's search capabilities allow you to search by authors' professional or university affiliations.I limited my search query to Pyongyang, North Korea, DPR Korea, and/or DPRK, which (correctly) yielded 5 published peer-reviewed research publications, none before 2006:Chae MH, Krull F, Lorenzen S, Knapp EW. Predicting prote........ Read more »

Chae MH, Krull F, Lorenzen S, & Knapp EW. (2010) Predicting protein complex geometries with a neural network. Proteins, 78(4), 1026-39. PMID: 19938153  

Rim H, Kim S, Sim B, Gang H, Kim H, Kim Y, Kim R, Yang M, & Kim S. (2008) Effect of iron fortification of nursery complementary food on iron status of infants in the DPRKorea. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 17(2), 264-9. PMID: 18586646  

Kim YS, Xiao HZ, Du EQ, Cai GS, Lu SY, & Qi YP. (2007) Identification and functional analysis of LsMNPV anti-apoptosis genes. Journal of biochemistry and molecular biology, 40(4), 571-6. PMID: 17669274  

Choe CU, Flunkert V, Hövel P, Benner H, & Schöll E. (2007) Conversion of stability in systems close to a Hopf bifurcation by time-delayed coupling. Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics, 75(4 Pt 2), 46206. PMID: 17500977  

  • August 6, 2013
  • 03:40 PM

The Prodigy Effect

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

This post might turn into a collaborative research project. If you're a data person, or an experimental psychologist interested in this, get in touch. I'd love to see if we can't formalize this idea.Anyway, A recent (excellent) Radiolab episode about the strange, unproven ideas of Henry Heimlich (of Heimlich maneuver fame, along with this Atlantic article about Linus Pauling's ideas about vitamin mega-dosing as a cancer cure, got me thinking about the "Nobel Disease" and the effec........ Read more »

  • June 28, 2013
  • 12:40 PM

Non-linear systems

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

(Another answer of mine from Quora)Non-linear dynamics are fascinating, if for no other reason than so many statistical models are linear, so testing for non-linearity often requires a more strong hypothetical foundation for understanding.I'll discuss these topics in rough order of my personal favorites.Oscillatory DynamicsOscillatory dynamics are the best. The most simple to understand is a pendulum, but you add a second pendulum to the end of the first and suddenly the non-linearitie........ Read more »

  • April 17, 2013
  • 12:47 PM

Primer on Sleep

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

This is my answer to the question over on Quora, What is the neurological definition of sleep?Sleep has a common, folk definition (the one we all know) which is roughly a state of reversible unconsciousness.Neurologically speaking, sleep is generally defined by macroscale features of the surface EEG. In other words, doctors put passive recording electrodes on your head to record the average electrical activity of millions of neurons to see if there's neural evidence for "wakefulness", drowsiness........ Read more »

Bendor D, & Wilson MA. (2012) Biasing the content of hippocampal replay during sleep. Nature neuroscience, 15(10), 1439-44. PMID: 22941111  

  • December 26, 2012
  • 06:44 PM


by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

There's a fascinating, very short report out in JAMA marking the first case where text messaging abnormalities were the first signs of a neurological abnormality.The paper, "Dystextia - Acute Stroke in the Modern Age", documents the case of a pregnant woman who suffered a small "acute ischemic infarction" (stroke) in her left insula (below). As per medical radiological tradition, the right side of the brain image represents the left side of the patient's brain, because they flip them (suppo........ Read more »

  • November 28, 2012
  • 04:25 PM

Video games give kids dementia?

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

PANIC.As much as I enjoy silly people, I really dislike jumping on the silly person bandwagon here but I feel compelled to counter nonsense with real sense.As Vaughan Bell over at mindhacks has repeatedly noted, Baroness Greenfield of Oxford likes to turn to the press to talk about how video games, the internet, and other generally fun things are ruining the brains of our children.In response, Ben Goldacre has made a simple request of the Baroness: publish your findings in a peer-reviewed study......... Read more »

  • November 16, 2012
  • 02:47 PM

Face processing in the brain: "That was a trip"

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

There's a cool new (open access!) case study out in the Journal of Neuroscience by my friend and colleague Josef Parvizi. The paper, "Electrical Stimulation of Human Fusiform Face-Selective Regions Distorts Face Perception", is an analysis of a single subject, Ron Blackwell (he gave his name freely), an engineer from the Bay Area.Mr. Blackwell had experienced seizures since he was a teenager, but for decades his medication had staved them off. Slowly, however, the medication became less eff........ Read more »

Parvizi J, Jacques C, Foster BL, Withoft N, Rangarajan V, Weiner KS, & Grill-Spector K. (2012) Electrical stimulation of human fusiform face-selective regions distorts face perception. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 32(43), 14915-20. PMID: 23100414  

  • September 20, 2012
  • 05:35 PM

NeuroImage paper: "A method for event-related phase/amplitude coupling"

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

For those of you who haven't noticed, the title of this blog is "Oscillatory Thoughts" which really does refer to my research interests. The gist is this: neuronal activity oscillates and these waves play an important role in our cognition.This latest paper of mine published in NeuroImage (accepted PDF version), "A method for event-related phase/amplitude coupling", is--as you can infer from the title--a method describing a different way of analyzing neural data than has been used befo........ Read more »

  • August 30, 2012
  • 11:35 AM

Allen Brain Institute

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Allen Brain Institute (twitter) about my work on brainSCANr and how it integrates with their Allen Brain Atlas.view from my hotel roomFor those of you not familiar with the organization it was started by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. So far he's invested about $500,000,000 of his own money to allow the Institute to prosper. They've got several concurrent projects going on, namely looking at gene expression in the human and mouse brain, connect........ Read more »

Lein ES, Hawrylycz MJ, Ao N, Ayres M, Bensinger A, Bernard A, Boe AF, Boguski MS, Brockway KS, Byrnes EJ.... (2007) Genome-wide atlas of gene expression in the adult mouse brain. Nature, 445(7124), 168-76. PMID: 17151600  

Ng L, Bernard A, Lau C, Overly CC, Dong HW, Kuan C, Pathak S, Sunkin SM, Dang C, Bohland JW.... (2009) An anatomic gene expression atlas of the adult mouse brain. Nature neuroscience, 12(3), 356-62. PMID: 19219037  

  • August 7, 2012
  • 10:13 AM

The Adventures of Ned the Neuron!

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

I've been itching to announce this for months, but I've been biting my tongue. Now I can finally let the neuron out of the bag.Ladies and gentlemen I'm proud to introduce to you a joint project between my wife Jessica Voytek and our friend Erica Warp: The Adventures of Ned the Neuron! To get the important pitch out of the way first, please go contribute some money to their Kickstarter campaign to help them get started if you want to help. Also, please consider following their company o........ Read more »

Warp E, Agarwal G, Wyart C, Friedmann D, Oldfield CS, Conner A, Del Bene F, Arrenberg AB, Baier H, & Isacoff EY. (2012) Emergence of patterned activity in the developing zebrafish spinal cord. Current biology : CB, 22(2), 93-102. PMID: 22197243  

Marriott G, Mao S, Sakata T, Ran J, Jackson DK, Petchprayoon C, Gomez TJ, Warp E, Tulyathan O, Aaron HL.... (2008) Optical lock-in detection imaging microscopy for contrast-enhanced imaging in living cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(46), 17789-94. PMID: 19004775  

Wyart C, Del Bene F, Warp E, Scott EK, Trauner D, Baier H, & Isacoff EY. (2009) Optogenetic dissection of a behavioural module in the vertebrate spinal cord. Nature, 461(7262), 407-10. PMID: 19759620  

  • August 1, 2012
  • 09:36 AM

The deception ratchet

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

The recent admission by Jonah Lehrer of fabricating quotes in his latest book has caused a lot of schadenfreude, bloviating about the "state of journalism", etc. People are writing a lot about what this "means".(source)I've been critical of Jonah Lehrer in the past because of his seemingly blind exaltation of neuroscientific findings but noted that this is a symptom of the state of cognitive neuroscientific research in general. After all these years, I believe I've finally identif........ Read more »

  • July 23, 2012
  • 11:52 AM

Why we play

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

Someone on Quora asked me answer this question: "Why does our brain crave entertainment? And should we give in to its cravings?" Initially I was going to decline, but when I thought about it, it started to sound like an increasingly fun challenge. Here's my full response:*****In short, yes, "entertainment" is beneficial to our neural health. And yes, for various definitions of "entertainment" we should absolutely "give in"!There is a reason that young mammals play and frolic.It's practice.Lion c........ Read more »

Draganski B, Gaser C, Busch V, Schuierer G, Bogdahn U, & May A. (2004) Neuroplasticity: changes in grey matter induced by training. Nature, 427(6972), 311-2. PMID: 14737157  

  • July 16, 2012
  • 03:19 PM

Building a better RoboCop

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

This week marks the 25th(!) anniversary of RoboCop, one of the hallmarks of 1980s US cinema and hero of Detroit.Detroit's soon-to-be RoboCop statue!This past weekend was also my 15th (or so) year attending Comic-Con. In a row. Because I didn't get to hear about the new RoboCop remake starring Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Hugh Laurie, I decided to celebrate this nerdistry my own way: by talking way to much and overthinking a plate of beans.This is me priming myself to t........ Read more »

Maguire EA, Gadian DG, Johnsrude IS, Good CD, Ashburner J, Frackowiak RS, & Frith CD. (2000) Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97(8), 4398-403. PMID: 10716738  

LaBar, Kevin S, & Cabeza, Roberto. (2006) Cognitive neuroscience of emotional memory. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 54(1), 233-264. DOI: 10.1038/nrn1825  

Berger TW, Hampson RE, Song D, Goonawardena A, Marmarelis VZ, & Deadwyler SA. (2011) A cortical neural prosthesis for restoring and enhancing memory. Journal of neural engineering, 8(4), 46017. PMID: 21677369  

Talwar SK, Xu S, Hawley ES, Weiss SA, Moxon KA, & Chapin JK. (2002) Rat navigation guided by remote control. Nature, 417(6884), 37-8. PMID: 11986657  

  • June 16, 2012
  • 12:45 PM

Defending Jonah Lehrer

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

This is a strange post for me to write because I admit I've ridden the anti-Jonah bandwagon before, advocating throwing Jonah overboard to quell the pop neuroscience storms.Upon honest introspective reflection I admit that some of my anti-Lehrerism probably stems from righteous brain-nerd ego-driven indignation. Why does this dude get all the attention when he's not even a neuroscientist?! He's just a neuroscience roadie!And that's not fair, and neither is all the shit he's getting.He's taken a ........ Read more »

  • June 4, 2012
  • 06:01 PM

Journal of Neuroscience Methods paper: "Automated Cognome Construction and Semi-automated Hypothesis Generation"

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

The scientific method begins with a hypothesis about our reality that can be tested via experimental observation. Hypothesis formation is iterative, building off prior scientific knowledge. Before one can form a hypothesis, one must have a thorough understanding of previous research to ensure that the path of inquiry is founded upon a stable base of established facts. But how can a researcher perform a thorough, unbiased literature review when over one million scientific articles are published a........ Read more »

Schmidt M, & Lipson H. (2009) Distilling free-form natural laws from experimental data. Science (New York, N.Y.), 324(5923), 81-5. PMID: 19342586  

Bowden, D., & Dubach, M. (2003) NeuroNames 2002. Neuroinformatics, 1(1), 43-60. DOI: 10.1385/NI:1:1:043  

Yarkoni T, Poldrack RA, Nichols TE, Van Essen DC, & Wager TD. (2011) Large-scale automated synthesis of human functional neuroimaging data. Nature methods, 8(8), 665-70. PMID: 21706013  

Lein, E., Hawrylycz, M., Ao, N., Ayres, M., Bensinger, A., Bernard, A., Boe, A., Boguski, M., Brockway, K., Byrnes, E.... (2006) Genome-wide atlas of gene expression in the adult mouse brain. Nature, 445(7124), 168-176. DOI: 10.1038/nature05453  

  • May 19, 2012
  • 12:49 PM

What is the longest axon?

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

This is a fascinating question I got over on Quora.Short answer: probably the dorsal root ganglion in the blue whale.Initially I thought it would be a motor axon in the sciatic nerve, but after consideration I'm pretty sure that the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) has a longer axon than the motor information carried in the sciatic nerve (which is the longest nerve in the body, but not axon).The DRG is a weird neuron because it's unipolar, so it's got a loooong ........ Read more »

  • May 9, 2012
  • 05:59 PM

PLoS ONE paper: "Prefrontal Cortex Lesions Impair Object-Spatial Integration"

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

In this post I'll discuss the science behind my most recent paper in PLoS ONE, "Prefrontal Cortex Lesions Impair Object-Spatial Integration", as well as give a general update of my goings-on.It's been a while since I've posted here about my own peer-reviewed research and my personal goings on. I've had a publishing break; my most recent first-authored papers prior to this one were the three clustered back in October/November 2010:NeuronPNASFrontiers in Human NeuroscienceBut a lot ........ Read more »

Voytek B, Soltani M, Pickard N, Kishiyama MM, & Knight RT. (2012) Prefrontal cortex lesions impair object-spatial integration. PLoS ONE, 7(4). PMID: 22563375  

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