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(54) Research on MUSIC: microsonic.

I will probably repeat this many times, but one of the challenges at Researchista is to keep my excitement down. Since I started this blog and our Facebook page, I met so many interesting people and the things we discuss are sometimes simply mind-blowing (bam) and this is one of these cases… So, from the left to the right we have 1 half musician/Researcher, 1 composer and 1 half Researcher/musician-amateur, who… how should I put it… joined their forces to create music out of the sounds that human body makes. Wait, what? I will stop here and let you discover this on your own… 

..here they are: Eva, Lucas and Ruth.

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They created “Microsonic” – an interdisciplinary project based music and on microbial communication, or shortly: music & microbes, how original is that! 😀

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here is the microbe, here is the music and here is the Researcher 🙂

The story behind: Both artists and scientists seek to understand aspects of the complex world around us. Despite this common ground, artists and scientists are too often separate in their endeavors. The Academy Honours Programme for Young Artists and Scientists (Netherlands) promotes cross-disciplinary approaches and interactions. The idea is to bridge this gap by bringing together ten artists and ten scientists of diverse backgrounds where they can discuss themes, amongst which: the role of art and science in society.

It was here at this workshop back in 2015 where the three of us met. It was already late, we changed the décor in the meanwhile to a pub, when we got involved into a discussion about communication, its musical aspects and how microbial organisms (e.g. bacterias) are communicating.

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source: internet

The beautiful thing about music is that it is an ultimate abstract art form that is not tied to specific images that connect easily with other disciplines from arts and science. And so, the idea to collaborate on a musical project inspired by microbial communication (aka microbes and bacterias) came into being.

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source: internet

Research about microbial communication via sound signals has only received limited attention due to its technical challenges. Even though electronic devices capable of detecting sounds on microscopic length scales get more advanced every day, the technique is still in its infancy. It is already possible to hear the sound of a large group of microbes – which sounds like white noise – but the devices still need to be developed further to be able to hear the sound of single isolated microbes. Because little is known about this form of communication, Lucas saw a role for himself to play as a composer. Since the communication is inaudible for us human beings, Lucas started to explore how a musical composition out of how this microbial world could possibly sound.

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“Microsonic” partition by Lucas Wiegerink

The Opinion article “When microbial conversations get physical”, Gemma Reguera discusses various forms of microbial communication, which formed the basis for the composition. It appears that the microbial microcosm is a rich sound world on its own. Reguera states that “every particle in a cell has a unique natural frequency of vibration and therefore produces a distinctive sound, very much like voice tonality and pitch in humans”.

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source: internet

Sound waves are generated when objects vibrate. Experiments with yeast cells not only demonstrate that intracellular motions were sufficiently strong enough to propagate across the stiff cell wall, but that they could also generate reproducible acoustic signals.

For our project Microsonic, Lucas composed a soft musical piece, as to give the audience the feeling of a hidden sound world. The public is invited to join on a sound journey into the human body. The microbial world slowly fades into their world. A tape with real sounds stemming from the human body is added to the composition to give the translated communication of microbes a real context. The sound journey starts off with a kind of white noise – unclear, almost inaudible and a bit scratchy – and you start wondering what it is. It is the sound of blood streaming through a vein. Then the zooming starts: more and more internal body sounds are heard, including the creaking of human nerves. But also, by further zooming in you will hear the sound produced by millions and millions of microbes. There the musicians come into the picture. The playing instruments symbolize the several sound signals that microbes use to communicate. Slowly, you get introduced into their microscopic world.

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source: internet

More and more pitched signals become distinguished, first only short ones, but as we zoom further, we hear longer ones as well. The microbial sound world becomes richer and richer; higher and lower pitches occur and the dynamic contrasts intensify. When listening carefully, you will hear that microbes make connections and communicate by taking over each other’s signals. So does the musicians – based on live improvisation. It is at this moment that you as human being can get a glimpse of the communication of microbes and maybe even feel part of their conversation. The composed journey ends with a collective ‘vibrational mode’, when a certain group of microbe cells are ‘in tune’.

The challenge for our composer Lucas was that he was used to thinking in terms of melodies and chords. However, microbial communication via sound signals is not a musical process – still produduces patterns and sounds. As a result, he had to change his approach to composing and relinquish control. Instead, he created a number of frameworks in which the musicians had freedom of movement and become part of the creation process. The subject of communication lends itself very well to this way of making music. The musicians improvise while listening and reacting to each other; they have to communicate to let it work.

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here it how body sounds from within…. https://soundcloud.com/user-354620747/research-on-music-microsonic

Our project is an example of how arts and science that both have the urge to understand and express the complex external world can reinforce each other. This demands certain effort, yes, but is even more rewarding. So had our composer Lucas to let go of his usual approach towards composing. And it is exactly this that makes interdisciplinary collaboration extremely interesting – since it questions the usual approach and way of working. But there is more, interdisciplinary collaboration can support inspiration in each other’s work and reinforce the expression of the complex mechanism in our (microbial) world towards a public. All we can say, go out, open your eyes, take the risk to look outside your usual box”.

The post is written  with Eva van Ooij, Ruth Schmidt (Dutch Institute of Ecology) and Lucas Wiegerink, and was presented at the PAS – Parcours of Art & Science Festival of Maastricht University in 2016. Many thanks to the members of Ensemble 88 – an ensemble specialized in contemporary music. The musical performance was accompanied by a presentation on microbial communication by Ruth.

With love for Research,

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More of Lucas’ compositions:

“The occult beauty of the finite is about that realisation that what is dear to us is also fleeting, and the beauty that lies in such transience. I was inspired to write this piece by the illness and passing away of my mother. As her health worsened, I became increasingly aware of the small pockets of beauty in our lives. Living under the illusion that everything lasts forever, these are easy to miss. But as one faces the loss of something precious, the world is brought into sharper focus”.

Being Arthur: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvTeIy4w-xc&feature=youtu.be
Kameroperahuis in collaboration with Dutch Touring Opera and Opera Days Rotterdam

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(49) Research on HEALTH: do-your-own-little research.

Have you ever watched people walking in and out of a train station or through a metro underground? Have you ever wondered what was on their minds? For example, what did they eat or what did they do that day? In this post, we will learn about a Research method that everybody knows about and uses, called the “observation“. There are more types of observations used in Research, but the one that is easiest to do is simply to observe and record the behaviour of yourself or those around you.

Since this is Research on HEALTH month, let’s talk about how you can use observation to improve your health. This post is inspired by a life story of a Researcher that had a bike accident on a early rainy morning. She got a head concussion and for weeks she could not do much. So, she used observation to go through her pain and social isolation. Here is what she says….

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Observation can be so refreshing.

I was laying in bed for days and nights, without being able to look on the computer screen or telephone much, without watching a movie or reading a book. All I could do was staring at the ceiling and counting the wrinkles it had and different shapes it could draw through its little lines and bubbles.

In time, I was allowed to listen to audio books and then to meditate and then slowly I came back to my senses, but the process itself was long and meticulous.

So, out of boredom I started to observe. I am a Researcher afterall. If I could not do any work, I could at least train my ‘detective muscle’ that is needed if you want to be reflective and smart 🙂

I observed the reaction of my friends and family, the way they reacted to my situation, the perception they have about me, the delayed reactions, the laughter, the physical support. It was so sweet to see them so concerned and as a result trying to pamper me all the time. I observed how compassionate were the people I knew and how I was reacting to their compassion, how I was reacting to the light, how the weather was changing, what shapes the sun was making in the ceiling, what positions were bad for my head, what was making me feel good. Although, at first sight very childish maybe exercises, it helped make a dialogue with myself and see how I recovered day by day.

I ended up observing myself. How was I responding to pain? What was making me feel good again? How much was I complaining?

Observation helped me to feel stronger and more refreshed with the image I had towards the others, the image others had towards me and the image I had towards what was surrounding me.

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Last thing, if you happen to ever have a head concussion and you have long hair, it will not take you long time to Not observe that you need a good hair mask to soften your hair after so much rubbing it by the pillow!!! 😀

p.s. Some deadlines for you to respect if you or your friend has a head concussion, but please always consult a doctor, I am not a doctor.

  1. It is a myth that if you did not vomit or fainted at the place of the accident, you do not have a head concussion. It might be the case, but most probably if you hit your head is really not a good idea to stay STANDING.
  2. In the first 24 hours it is important to have someone next to you that can check on you during the night or take you to the emergency if necessary. Emergency-24-Hour-Service2.png
  3. In the first 2 weeks it is very important to have a good continous rest and if possible, not go to work, otherwise you will regret it for the next 6 month.
  4. Same for the first month, for as long as possible rest.
  5. In the next 6 month, your head will not be the same, it needs time to recover…

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Did you like this story? Are you motivated now to observe more the things and people around you? 

This is ‘do-your-own-little-research‘ moment on Researchista. 

With love for Research,

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(47) Research on HEALTH: first aid (CPR).

This is Research on HEALTH month on Researchista. It is when Researchers from different medical fields bring their best knowledge and expertise in few words to explain their Research findings and to hopefully help you overcome certain health questions or problems you might have. Please say hi to Sebastian! 

Hi there!

I studied Medicine at the Maastricht University (2010-2016) and became a member of Taskforce QRS (CPR instructor) in 2012. My first cardiopulmonary resuscitation was on a ward in a small town in Germany, where I was at the time following an internship. At that moment, I was a CPR instructor for nearly 3 years and I thought I knew all the steps perfectly. But nothing could prepare me for the real thing….. ☺

 

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Sebastian Sanduleanu, PhD student at Maastricht University

So, what to do when someone has a heart attack? First, let’s distinguish some key concepts:

“Cardiac arrest”

A “cardiac arrest”, not to be confused with a “heart attack” is when the heart stops beating (Figure 1). A heart attack may lead to a cardiac arrest.

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Fig. 1: Cardiac arrest vs. heart attack. Source: http://www.healthzone.org

If a cardiac arrest occurs, blood will stop circulating around the body and breathing will likewise cease within several minutes. Without a supply of oxygen, the cells in the body start to die. Especially brain cells are highly sensitive for low blood oxygen concentrations, after about five minutes of no oxygen brain cells will begin dying leading to brain damage and death.

Other key conceptual differences regarding symptoms:

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Source: http://www.positivemed.com

“CPR”

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR is one of the key elements of first aid. The purpose of CPR is by chest compression to keep oxygenated blood flowing through the body in order to keep the vital organs alive.

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Fig. 2. The BLS/AED algorithm Source: http://www.slideshare.net/adis23/cpr-prezentacija

It is important to know that CPR itself will not restart someone’s heart, it just keeps them alive until a defibrillator (Figure 3) arrives. This is a device which delivers an electrical shock to the heart in order to restart it. These defibrillators are, aside from hospitals, commonly found in sports parks, shopping malls, schools and near to crowded areas. Access is restricted to authorized users, from ambulance workers, (para-) medics to civilians trained in CPR (with a so called BLS = Basic Life Support certification).

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Fig. 3. The automated external defibrilator (AED)

CPR numbers in the Netherlands

Around 10.000 people in the Netherlands face a cardiac arrest outside the hospital every year. A major influence on the survival rate is the high percentage of bystanders, which had already begun CPR before the arrival of the first ambulance (>75%), the connection of an automatic external de-fibrillator (AED) and a shockable heart rhythm early. These findings have been summarized in the chain of survival (Figure 4).

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Fig. 4. The chain of survival.

The survival in the Netherlands is on average 23%, one of the highest in Europe. If there is a shockable rhythm start, the survival rate can be as high as 44%.

For those living in Maastricht: QRS Taskforce Maastricht, purpose and background
In order to improve the survival chances for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victims, Taskforce QRS Maastricht (Qualitative Resuscitation by Students), was founded in 2006 by medical students of Maastricht University3. In 2012 a new approach in CPR training, called Maastricht Quantity-orientated Resuscitation Session (M-QRS), was developed that focuses on the number of trained students per training. By comparing the new with the old approach quantitative growth could be assessed. Until now more than 12,937 secondary school students have now been trained by ERC-certified (European Resuscitation Council) CPR instructors with this efficient M-QRS approach. In comparison, a theoretical maximum of 6,469 could have been trained by means of the old approach. Sign up for CPR-training with Taskforce QRS: A civilian rescuer is a CPR trained volunteer that is contacted by 112 emergency rooms per SMS or via a special phone application to directly or after picking up an AED (automatic external defibrillator) go to the location of a victim of a cardiac arrest and to start CPR. Interested? Click on the link! 

(more at: Ghossein, A., Amin, H., Sijmons, J., Olsthoorn, J., Weerts, J., Houben, V. (2014). Taskforce QRS. European Heart Journal, 35(45), 3149-3151).

Heart physiology

The heart pumps oxygen and nutrients around the body through your blood. Waste products, e.g carbon dioxide and urea are removed through your circulation by respectively the lungs (diffusion) and the kidneys (urine filtration). In your lungs, oxygen enters your blood stream and carbon dioxide (a waste product) is removed in a process known as gas exchange (Figure 5).

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Figure 5. Gas exchange in lungs (Pearson, 2013).

All the cells in your body are dependent on oxygen, aside from nutrients to survive. This oxygen is used as energy source in the powerhouses of the cell, the mitochondria in a biochemical activity called metabolism.

 

 Post written by Sebastian Sanduleanu, MAASTRO Clinic, Maastricht University, Maastricht

 

 

With love for Research,

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(44) Research on BRAIN (extended): Misophonia

The quest into the unknown land of ‘misophonia’ continues. It is not included in any diagnostic manuals, it is not widely acknowledged by the medical community. Yet people who suffer from misophonia exist and here is what they are confronted with, in the words of Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout, the founder of International Misophonia Research Network, a New York State Certified School Psychologist, a Connecticut Professional Licensed Counselor, with a Doctorate in School/Clinical-Child Psychology, based here in the Connecticut, the United States of America.

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Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout, International Misophonia Research Network.

Differentiating Disorders: Misophonia and Sensory Over-Responsivity

As all researchers know, almost comically, well, uncovering new scientific knowledge is no easy task. Whether you are engaged in investigating a well-trod topic, or, like me, you are forging relatively new territory, there are often not simple solutions to the complex problems we encounter. Perhaps you have recently read about the disorder I study and advocate for, misophonia, on this blog. Misophonia is a neurologically based disorder in which auditory, and sometimes visual, stimuli are misinterpreted within the central nervous system, leading sufferers to have unpleasant reactions to sounds others would consider barely noticeable.

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Source: internet.

When misophonia sufferers are exposed to particular “trigger sounds,” the fight/flight response is set off within the body. For these individuals, hearing a noxious noise can feel akin to being confronted with a wild animal, as their hearts race and muscles tense.

Because misophonia (does not appear in diagnostic manuals, such as DSM-5 or ICD-10) is only recently gaining wider recognition in the public and scientific communities, studying this disorder presents a unique set of challenges. 

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Though there is a scant amount of research on misophonia at this point, fortunately, there is a large body of research that has been developed over the past 15 years on a similar disorder, Sensory Over-Responsivity (a subtype of Sensory Processing Disorder). Individuals suffering from Sensory Over-Responsivity react to all types of sensory information as thought it were dangerous, and their fight/flight systems can be activated by seemingly inoffensive sights, smells, tastes, touches, or sounds. In both, misophonia and Sensory Over-Responsivity, certain sounds can leave sufferers feeling angry, fearful, disgusted, and “out of control.”

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Source: Internet.

Though it may seem natural that the research on Sensory Over-Responsivity be used to inform our understanding of misophonia, this has, largely, not taken place. We may ask ourselves, why are these two highly similar disorders rarely compared in misophonia academic articles, or articles in the popular press? My answer to this question is an unfortunate one: for the most part, researchers are not used to working within a cross-disciplinary model.

While psychology researchers, audiology researchers, and occupational therapy researchers may be competent and successful within their own fields, they are often not accustomed to reaching beyond them to integrate other types of research into their own work. There is a long pragmatic and political history behind the lack of cross-disciplinary research work that is not necessarily the fault of academic researchers or clinicians. However, in the “age of information” that we are living in, sharing valuable knowledge between researchers from different disciplines should now be as quick and easy as doing a google search, and as common. As it is, this lack of information sharing trickles down to the public, and often leads Misophonia and Sensory Over-Responsivity sufferers to find inaccurate information about their own conditions.

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Unfortunately, another important problem facing both misophonia and Sensory Over-Responsivity is that neither disorder has been accepted into the diagnostic manuals (DSM-5 or the ICD-10). It is difficult to understand the logic behind this fact, as studies have estimated that up to 20% of children are affected by sensory-based disorders. Likewise, tens of thousands of people have gathered on social media platforms to form support groups for misophonia, helping one another fill the gaps left by a large portion of the mental health community. There is a long political history involving how a disorder gains entry into diagnostic manuals, and though the National Institute of Health has taken steps recently to try to change this process, this change comes long after the damage has been done. Therefore, what we are left with is two disorders that “don’t exist,” that are not reimbursable by insurance, and for which research funding is extraordinarily difficult to come by.

Sensory Over- Responsivity and Misophonia share more than symptoms. They share neglect from the medical and psychiatric communities, which has resulted in the dissemination of more than enough inaccurate and confusing information to do damage to sufferers lives. My hope is that going forward, receptive practitioners and researchers from all facets of the healthcare community can work cooperatively to study and treat these disorders, discovering important knowledge and improving sufferers’ quality of life.

This post is written by Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout  (who is also the mother of adult triplets, and is a Misophonia sufferer herself) and Miss Madeline Appelbaum, a recent alumna of Reed College (Oregon, USA), with a particular interest in educational psychology. Madeline wrote an undergraduate thesis on the effects of autonomous and controlled motivation to learn on college students.

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Madeline Appelbaum, Intern at International Misophonia Research Network

International Misophonia Research Network (Amsterdam)

With love for Research,

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(39) Research on Brain: language.

This is Research on Brain month on Researchista and this is our guest of the week, I would normally say, but this is not just an usual introduction. This is such a genuinely nice person and friend, I wish to transmit at least a little bit from the inspiration and huge support that Joao has been giving to research communication. I would like to thank him for accepting to break the ice on Research and BRAIN month – with its related topics that are included in one field, called ‘Neuroscience’. It start with how brain helps us express clearly and use language to solve our problems and grow. Welcome to our Special Guest Dr. Joao Correia, originally from Portugal, Experienced Researcher at Maastricht University.

LANGUAGE: YOUR KEY TO THE WORLD.

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Dr. Joao Correia

We all have the impression that the brain is vast, and that vastness allows us to perform a long list of human functions. One of the unique functions that humans have is by far the ability to communicate. Human communication is direct and self-motivated. We do not only express ourselves to others, but we do it with the intention to change the behavior and knowledge of others.

My research dives into the unknown neural circuits of the communicating brains via speech and language. I try to understand how we speak and how we understand the speech of others, and in addition how these seemingly natural capacities serve the memory and thoughts and above all, shape the advanced societies of our world. Imagine, a car crash test.

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A car at high speed drives against a brick wall. This is – figuratively – what happens in the tympanic membrane of our ears when you hear something. Sound waves (travelling at 340 meters per second) bring auditory information into our ears, which transforms this mechanical energy into electric signals that can be interpreted by our brains.

Without this basic physical and neural capacity to receive sound information, for example from speech, infants wouldn’t develop normal speech and linguistic capabilities. Our ability to speak or to read owes much to this initial training of speech sound perception, such as our parents voice.

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As the auditory cortices in the left and right hemispheres, receive signals from spoken language, they start to link to others brain areas that are being coherently stimulated. For example, we hear different melodic tunnes (also called ‘signatures’ or ‘prosodies’) when our parents want to provide us a positive or negative feedback for education. Or we hear the word ‘water’ coherently together with the experience of drinking water. In sum, our senses start becoming linked, originating richer memory representations (auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory or emotional). How exactly these links are created and used in everyday life remains largely unknown.

Another linguistic faculty that is poorly understood is how we speak. Remember how swimming is a super exercise because it uses so many muscles of our body? Well, speaking uses more than 100 muscles, from the diaphragm and costal muscles – to create air flow – to multiple muscles of the larynx – to create the necessary pressure – to transform air flow onto sound waves – and finally – muscles of the vocal tract like the lips and tongue – to shape those sound waves onto concrete speech sounds. Due to our highly linked brain, we are capable to develop speaking abilities purely from hearing other people speaking, as well as, experiencing our own attempts to speak.

This link between auditory and motoric brain systems is often referred to as sensorimotor integration, because it provides a platform to integrate sensory and motor components. Sensorimotor integration is a key aspect of speech development, everyday speaking and comprehension. In a nutshell, we speak in a certain way because of how we hear and we hear in a certain way because of how we speak.

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Source: internet.

I am deeply in love with the versatility and complexity of sensorimotor integration, as it has the potential to explain multiple mysteries of the communicating brains, how comprehension and speaking develop normally and abnormally or how the brain learns to read.

Until recently, to ask these questions would necessarily lead to difficult philosophic and psychological discussions for which my engineering background wouldn’t be ready. However, in addition to these critical points in science, today we can image the human brain safely and with unprecedented detail, which allows directly to test and create hypothesis for how humans communicate…

Functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) allows taking magnetic pictures of the brain as people execute scientific experiments, including speaking or listening to speech. The pictures,

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reflect oxygen consumption within each small 3D pixel (or voxel) and are extremely rich in detail. However, such a complex capability is not present in one or two voxels, but distributed among the vast neural circuitry of the brain. Thousands of voxels per second must be analyzed during a single act of hearing, speaking or reading.

This screams for computational tools, able to handle such large amount of data. In my work, I use tools that have been developed for statistical learning, like predicting the weather, to learn how voxels behave for language. By investigating how voxels encode linguistic units, I hope to help formulate models of spoken communication that can have a direct impact to understand the neural circuitry for speech and language and to help unravel how these circuits fail during speech and language disorders. There is a long road to walk, but with the help of parallel technological development, this road may now be driven in a fast sport car rather than by foot. In 2010, I counted on voxels of 42 cubic millimeters, in 2014 of 8 cubic millimeters, and now in 2016 of 1 cubic millimeter. This increase in spatial resolution has a huge impact on our research, that goes hand in hand with innovation. Together, the vastness of the human brain is becoming increasingly understood.

Post written by Joao Correia, M-BIC, Maastricht University

With love for Research,

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(3) How many Researchers there are?

Have you sometimes wondered how many Researchers in fact exist in Europe? or in the US? How about the worldwide scenery? Would you like to know the answer to these questions? Me too, but some recent comparable data is apparently difficult to find. Apart from the comparative challenge (since Researchers might be defined slightly different in the EU than in China for example), the data is usually segregated by types of Researchers (faculty members, graduate students, full-time/part-time, professors, doctoral students, post-doctoral, etc.) which makes it challenging to give one final single answer.