Through the course of this independent science research class, I had many opportunities to go through various projects, familiarizing myself with new technologies and fields of study as I slowly approach graduation.
As I volunteered at the elderly day-care center in Japan, I was exposed to various situations on the severity of the lack of support the elderly have. Compared to the significant increase in the numbers of the elderly, the numbers of volunteers/caretakers are in shortage. Understanding this situation, I thought one task I must take part of was assisting the citizens in need. At HPA, I was introduced to the NeuroSky Headset that measures brain activity with research-grade, noise filtering, and EEG biosensors.
I composed a study that looked at the therapeutic effects of music on dementia patients. I finally displayed it in an excel grid format to make data comparisons.
After the first visit, I discussed with the organizer of the day-care center to increase the clients’ exposure to music. A month later, I returned to the day-care, to once again conduct the two types of tests on the same clients. Although the duration of a month was a very short time period, the clients presented with an improvement of sleep, and began to show positive reactions. Some patients showed a great smile that they had never showed before. I brought this project back home in Fukuoka, Japan, where I was originally inspired. Similar responses were seen, with the patients showing especially higher levels of gamma waves. (Which is related to the cognitive processing component of the brain)
Cognitive Activity (Morning vs Night)
People have times of the day in which their cognitive activity is higher as opposed to other times of the day. Therefore, optimal study is more effective within a certain window of time. This study was conducted to display individual patterns in cognitive performance to find the times of the day that people are most alert, eventually corresponding to the performance with learning tasks.
In this study, I asked the subjects (boarding students) to take a survey to rate their stress level and the total hours of sleep they had on the night before. Using a visual test for analytical data, I simultaneously recorded their brainwave using the NeuroSky Brainwave Visualizer Application. Similarly to my music-dementia project, I used the data from the application, and converted the xml format data into an excel spreadsheet. Instead of looking at all ranges of brainwaves, the gamma waves were specifically looked at, as it relates to the students’ ability to achieve the same performance with or without much exertion.
Overall, the majority of the people presented with better analytical scores of the visual test in the morning, and higher (high + low) gamma levels in the morning. The high school students I tested performed better in the morning as opposed to the night. One interesting data that I found was that 91% of the people stated the survey (I asked before the test) that they were in fact a “night person”. Thus, I was able to prove their beliefs wrong.
Robertson Sound Audit
My first project that I worked on was the sound audit of the Robertson’s dormitory. Living in the dorm with 30 other girls and boys, there are constantly sources of noises to distract one another during study hall and in morning when one desires to sleep in. I thought, what is a way in which the sound produced in the hallway could be absorbed, to create a more comfortable environment for the students? As I looked into soundproofing companies, in general it was described to be an environment that prioritizes the interaction between the person and the room acoustic comfort that contributes to the human well being. Theses statements generally back up the idea in which there is a correlation between effective studying and room environment. I had a nomad and a filter placed in my dorm room for the duration of one and a half quarter, and I did a weekly analysis of the status of the dorm using the server. On top of that, I used a program called fuzz measure, that swiped the room’s ability of sound decay as it releases a high to low decibel sound. At the end of the sound-analysis period, I re-measured the filter that had been placed in my room. The filter started out to be off-white, although by the last day it appeared to be more charcoaled colored. As the filter was placed beside my open window, it shows how much vog, dust, and other particles enter and leave the dorm rooms every day. In Japan, there is a problem with the high amount of PM 2.5 that is present in the atmosphere. It causes great trouble with people’s lungs and heart conditions. As we discussed about it in AP Environmental Science, in Hawaii PM 2.5 does not exist at a high frequency. However in locations such as central Asia, it is a very concerning problem. It turns out that the particles existing all over the room caused a decrease in the quality of the sound as well. It turns out that comparing the initial and the final weight of the filter, there was a 0.12g difference, presenting the accumulation of particles in the room. (This is unhealthy)
Blinking Test – Conscious vs Unconscious
I was also given the opportunity to get in contact with a HI-SEAS member, in order to get a better insight into professional cognitive research. According to them, they are using a cognition application from Joggle Research in which as 8/10 research that are publicly available through the Application. The purpose of the test is to see if one is still sharp and on top of his/her game before going out and doing critical activities such as EVAs (Extravehicular Activity). Before going out on an EVA, they run through the cognition tests to ensure their judgment is not slowed or impaired in any way (i.e. Lack of sleep, illness, etc..). This information inspired me to continue my cognitive research using the NeuroSky headset, as I am familiar with the program the most. The test consisted of looking into how being conscious of your actions may make a difference in the behaviors. Starting out simple, I started with a blinking test. First, I measured the amount of time the subject blinked over a time frame of 2 minutes, without any information given to them. Then, I asked them whether they thought their act of blinking was too fast or too slow. Once they were conscious of their blinking, they will attempt their blinking to be either faster or slower than it is. In order to make sure of the effect of consciousness, I replicated the experiment multiple times. Over the course of a couple weeks of study, generally the subjects were seen to blink more in the given time frame when conscious of their action.
Goals, and what I would like to leave behind:
Within the short two years that I had at the energy lab, I was given countless opportunities and inspirations given to me by students and teachers around me. What I would like to do , is to have a similar effect on other students younger than me. Although in the EEG group there is only one rising senior, it would be great if she could use similar techniques that Alina, Caylin and myself had taught ourself over these two years. I would like to teach other students the method in which I converted the values found from the Neurosky headset to make the visually representative graphs. In college, as I am majoring in neuroscience, I would love to be able to conduct more studies, connecting our behaviour with outside factors.