Archived entries for Aniruddh Patel

things overlap

So, one of my first blog entries here was about how Senyo Agawu ’13 is the son of Princeton-affiliated Kofi Agawu, a music scholar who Ani has previously cited (and, I found out today, is currently reading). Here is another, much larger coincidence.

I have been amassing loads of articles on about twenty different topics. Usually I exaggerate when estimating, but there are actually three binders, among which twenty topics are covered. They include fetal and neonatal responses to music, heart beat variability in neonates, circadian rhythms in neonatal cortisol, and long-term consequences of NICU stays and neonatal surgery. One of the articles is called “Long-term effects of neonatal surgery on adulthood pain behavior.” Published in Pain in 2005, the first author on this paper is Haverford’s very own Wendy Sternberg. (When typing “Wendy,” I almost typed “Wednesday.” I should go to sleep.) I found this out last month when I first came across the article. It was one of the first I found in my search because it addresses one of the more pressing issues relevant to the study: how does the process of getting surgery affect subsequent development, sensations, and life outcomes of these patients?

When reading the authors, I stopped at Sternberg. I e-mailed her about my little discovery, and when I returned to read the paper, I started with the abstract and skipped past the other four authors, all of whom were in the same thesis group several years ago. Two days ago, I zoned out for a few seconds when looking at the paper (not for lack of interest but for, quelle surprise, lack of sleep) and when I came to, I see “Lauren D. Smith.”

I am living with Smiths: Penny and Jay ’73. I found them because their daughter Lauren graduated from Haverford relatively recently in ’04. Penny’s mother went by Doe, and I remembered vaguely that Lauren’s middle name was Dorothy or Dorothea or something. Could it be? Could I be living with the parents of one of the co-authors on one of the most relevant papers for this study?

To find out, I called Penny. I feel like whenever I call Penny, she automatically thinks something is wrong because I call her so infrequently. As usual with phone conversations, I started it as awkwardly as possible.

Me: “What is Lauren’s middle name?
Penny: “…Dorothy” [I don't know how they spell it.]
Me: “Yadda yadda yadda wow she wrote this blah blah blah.”

The world can be pretty absurd sometimes.

snorkeling

Today I went snorkeling off of La Jolla Cove with my cousin and I saw tons of fish whose names I will look up later, some kelp, and some reefy areas. We went into a cave that was absolutely gorgeous, and the limited light made the water this really excellent turquoise. But the highlight was swimming amidst sea lions, even though I balled my hands up into tight fists because I was afraid my fingers might be mistaken for a delicious lunch treat. It was kind of like this but instead viewed from above:

Even in water that was three feet deep, tons of fish were swimming around. These dinner-plateesque white and gray striped fish were in schools of about ten, winding in and out of waders’ legs. I was in this part of the Pacific two weeks ago, and had no idea of the animal diversity.

All of this is well and good, but I digress from my reason for posting. Our snorkel tour guide was this kid named Kevin, an ex-Navy diver who now leads snorkeling and scuba tours for San Diego Excellent Adventures. Quite the upgrade if you ask me. I told him what I’m doing in San Diego and after apologizing for changing the topic, he told me one of the coolest things ever that ended up not being a change in topic at all but instead an expansion of the topic.

He was leading a tour with this woman who would swim in the ocean all the time with those underwater headphones Olympians use during their hours of practice. (My cousin told me about this Olympian thing and all I can say is thank goodgollygosh that someone invented these things because can you imagine hours and hours and hours of only hearing own thoughts and the water splashing? I’d go crazy). Anyway, she had pretty eclectic tastes and would listen to a host of genres in the water. When she listened to rock or country or hip-hop or whatever, nothing weird would happen, but when she played jazz with high-pitched trumpets, dolphins would swim with her. DOLPHINS!

Although his phenomenon is not directly related to my research project here in San Diego, Ani and John do work with animals and their relationship to the music they hear and create. I cannot wait to tell them this tomorrow.

the worth of viral infection

The other day I walked into lunch thirty minutes late and sat at table with some familiar faces. They promptly left, and I met some new folks. One of them, David Edelman, went to Swarthmore, and we had a great conversation about the liberal arts experience on the Main Line. I also met Geoffrey Owens, whose most recent work (as I understand it) concerns extracting photosensitive genes from bacteria and using viruses to infect rats’ brains with them. He uses fiberoptics to shine a light onto the area of the brain where the gene is expressed and observes how it affects their behavior.

Today at the hospital, I mentioned this to one of the fellows and she was like, “Oh, that sounds sort of like gene therapy.” I’ve spent the past ten minutes on the Wikipedia page for gene therapy, and I’m pretty much in awe. It is essentially the insertion of genes into cells and tissue to treat conditions where a mutant gene is causing problems. Many of the vectors for this gene insertion are viruses, which have perfected the art of infiltrating cells with their own genetic  material. Most notably, gene therapy has been quite a successful cancer treatment, but it is not yet widespread.

In recent history, when you hear “virus,” it is either being discussed in regard to H1N1 or some computer bug that managed to wipe away years of documents (and, if really unlucky, gigabytes of songs).  Yet another popular application is the “viral video,” or a video that has gathered a substantial amount of Internet fame and on occasion, infiltration into other forms of media or intellectual engagement.

A perfect example of this “infiltration” is marked by one of Ani and John’s recent research forays. They came across the video of the cockatoo Snowball dancing to “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys.

They noticed that it seemed to be keeping the beat as it danced and wanted to determine whether it actually was. As I noted in a much earlier post, vocal learning is the ability to produce complex sound patterns based on auditory input. This phenomenon also exists in songbirds, hummingbirds, whales, dolphins, bats, and seals.

Last Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning had a feature on Snowball and this research:

They left out an important finding, though. John and Ani changed the tempo of the same song to see if Snowball would be able to synchronize to the altered tempo, and he was! The study results have been published in several places, authored by Ani, John, a UCSD affiliate named Micah Bregman and Snowball’s owner Irena Schultz. One of them, “Experimental Evidence for Synchronization to a Musical Beat in a Nonhuman Animal,” is available here.

serotonin

My brain seemed to have a lot of it floating around today. What an unexpectedly great birthday!

When I was younger, I used to have the best birthday parties. Always themed (i.e., shells, clowns strawberries, bird houses, Roald Dahl), my mom would cultivate parties that involved crafts, delicious food, backyard games, and copious usage of my playground and hammock. I also remember tons of lemonade and well-decorated cakes. I think my favorite was my clown birthday party, where my aunts all teamed up to paint the faces of the party guests in their preferred clown get-up. The craft involved making these snow globes using jars and these really fun, miniature clown statues. This is certainly a retrospective favorite because I don’t actually remember this party; I just watch the home video at least twice a year.

But my 21st was so great, too! Even though it would have been nice to see my family, my host family and my work friends made the day truly special.

7:30 a.m. – On my way down to the stairs to leave for work, notice a wonderful birthday balloon bouquet (BBB) from Jay and Penny. Yes!

8:30 a.m. – Found out that the IRB approved the study, and received a bunch of e-mails from NSI employees wishing me a happy day. Cute!

10:30 a.m. – Got TB test, but the nurse missed the first time (read: she stuck me with the needle, went to inject the fluid and it went all over my arm.) Ouch!

11:00 a.m. – Returned to Dr. Knight’s office to meet with Carol, a nurse practitioner involved with the study to find the office decked out with birthday decorations, an extraordinary cake (click “extraordinary” for onset of jealousy), a book I have been yearning to own but unable to afford, and a generous gift from the my coworkers at RCHSD! Amazing!

12:00 p.m. – Had lunch at NSI with Ani, John, and two women who are interested in starting a chapter of Dancing for Parkison’s in San Diego. Inspiring!

1:00 p.m. – Entered my NSI office to find a nice birthday message (on a beautiful postcard, no less) from Ani and a Putumayo CD called “From Mali to Memphis: An African-American Odyssey.” Thoughtful!

1:30 p.m. – Stopped by the office of Debbie Honeycutt, a member of the NSI Development Staff, who baked me the most delicious brownies I have ever eaten in my entire life. Chewy!

2:00 p.m. – Continued to amass and categorize articles about the effect of stress on neonatal brain development, how music can effect neonates, etc. etc. Knowledge!

4:30 p.m. – Tripped on the way out of NSI and opted to fall on my left knee instead of drop the brownie tray. Split my pants and my knee cap, but luckily there was a non-emergency-bound ambulance at the gas station so I could clean myself up. (Cute) EMTs!

6:30 p.m. – Ate delicious carne asada tacos at a Mexican restaurant with my host family and some family friends. Delicioso!

Overall, I realized today more than any other day how happy I am to be in San Diego doing exactly what I’m doing. In other news, Haverford physics professor and avid jazz saxophone player Stephon Alexander is joining Ani, John, Dr. Gall, and I for lunch tomorrow! Exciting!

(To update you on my sunburn, it has certainly faded to a tan and a pretty deep one at that. It impedes my wardrobe selection and I look like a fool in my gym shirts.)

day one

So much about which to blog. So little energy left. So I’ll give a quick rundown.

Today marked my official first day of work at the Neurosciences Institute. Finally, NSI has become a place where living, breathing people do incredible science instead of a series buildings that had been entering my dreams on an increasingly regular basis.

Although I included a nearly identical photograph in an earlier entry about the Institute, this picture was taken with my camera.

Upon arrival, I had some lunch (catered by NSI, tasty, intended to encourage interdepartmental dialogue) with Dr. John Iversen, one of Ani’s colleagues and the second researcher involved with this summer’s NICU project. Towards the end of lunch, Ani met up with me and we ventured to Rady Children’s Hospital to meet with Dr. Gail Knight. The three of us went over some of the more logistical things regarding the study, and then Ani and I returned to NSI. I got acclimated to my office, and that was pretty much it for day one. Today, it became clearer than ever the degree of intelligence that will surround me this summer. I’m already honored.

After work, I took an extremely congested route to join UCSD’s gym and it took me approximately thirty-five minutes in rush hour traffic. Upon arrival, the receptionist told me a much easier way to get there: drive two blocks. Thanks, GPS. Your system may have succeeded at positioning me globally, but it lacked efficiency, to say the least. Stressed, frustrated, and a little stir crazy from the car (I need to get used to the amount of time I’m going to spend in a vehicle), I went to the Torrey Pines Glider Port.

Before I left the house this morning, Penny suggested that I go there, and this suggestion was seconded and thirded by  gentlemen at lunch. I sat down, read, and slowly ate my dinner (avocado, tomato, mozzarella, caramelized onion sandwich on baguette bread). There is nothing like an hour and a half of listening to the ocean while watching the sun pierce the clouds to relax you. It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Pacific Ocean. Hopefully next time we can get a little more intimate.

I would say that my destress period was perfect, save for one detail. I didn’t have headphones and could not listen to the music that I craved: Sigur Ros.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sUVm77WjE0

When I finally returned home, I was catching Jay and Penny up on my adventures when the phone rang. One of their lovely family friends called to let me know that PBS was airing a NOVA program called “Musical Minds.” We watched it together; blog entry on the topic to come soon.

music and the mind

Have you ever heard of the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra? Their website introduces them as a group that performs music solely on instruments made of vegetables, with “carrot flutes, pumpkin basses, leek violins, leek-zucchini-vibrators [??], cucumberophones, and celery bongos.” Sometimes, they even include the noises of kitchen instruments.

Geez, I’m hungry. Good thing I’m going to Hillcrest Farmer’s Market after finishing this post!

Anyway, here is the cover of their album Automate, complete with my favorite vegetable, romanesco (fractal) broccoli. I’ve never eaten this cauliflower relative, but I have been known to call supermarkets when it is in season to see if it happens to be in stock.

Here are some of their instruments:

Cool! I was ignorant to the existence of this musical ensemble before finding a video of a talk by Dr. Patel called called “Music and the Mind.” It is part of a series available on YouTube called Grey Matters: From Molecules to Mind. Ani included the group as an example of how humans are constantly innovating new ways to explore as musical beings. This topic is one of the many interesting remarks made throughout the talk, and I wanted to write on some its highlights as a way to introduce formally the overarching topic that inspired my summer project.

Part IAn introduction

The video starts with an introduction from Dr. Ralph Greenspan of the Neurosciences Institute. He remarks that Ani is a clarinetist and a classical guitarist and that this musical background sparked his interest in the way the brain intersects with music. (I played clarinet and piano throughout my pre-collegiate education and attribute my interest in the field to this musical background!) Greenspan also notes how appropriate it is that, in light of this, Ani works at NSI, which is not only a premier research institution on brain science but also the home to a beautiful performing arts space that offers a plethora of performances throughout the year. Luckily for me, I get to benefit from both of these aspects of NSI, and of Dr. Patel!

Part IIA song is…

Patel’s talk begins with a quotation from Plato circa 400 B.C.: “Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inwards places of the soul…” He reflects that despite this early mention of the real impact that music can have on the individual, the field is only several decades old. He continues to explain some research with which I am vaguely familiar on the physiological manifestations of strong experiences with music, powered by the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus acumbens, brain areas involved in the reward circuit featuring the neurotransmitter dopamine. My Haverford adviser Marilyn Boltz showed me a journal article on this topic when I was planning the syllabus for a Hurford Humanities Center class I co-taught with Jane Holloway ’11 on film music. Ani was focusing on strong experiences with purely instrumental music that was not paired with lyrical or filmic stimuli.

More generally, it is important to consider why music neuroscience is an important field. How is research in the field able to contribute to a scientific understanding of brain mechanisms and humans as a species? Is it anything other than just really awesome? Yes, indeed! And Ani lists several compelling reasons why. He indicates the benefits of the fact that music engages many brain functions, including emotion, memory, learning & plasticity, pattern perception, imagery. Also, music and language are universal and unique to human beings.

You may be like, no, birds sing. Haven’t you heard of parrots? Or the lyrebird? But Ani addresses this point of controversy, pointing out that birdsong tends to be triggerd by hormonal and neuronal changes that happen at certain times of year and in certain contexts, mostly by males who have reached sexual maturity. Humans of both sexes, conversely, are musical from an early age.

It is important to understand how both humans and, for example, parrots are able to produce complex sound patterns based on auditory input, known as vocal learning. Ani explains that this phenomenon also exists in songbirds, hummingbirds, whales, dolphins, bats, and seals. He showed a video of a dancing parrot, and cited not only vocal learning capabilities but the existence of the basal ganglia as reasons why this parrot was able to synchronize its body movements to a beat. It is also true that species unable to vocally learn, such as our closest genetic relatives chimpanzees and bonobos, cannot move to a beat.

Part IIILife without music, or without language

Since there is no animal model, much of the research on music neuroscience has focused on individuals who are amusic, or those with problems with, for example, recognizing familiar tunes, spotting sour notes, or telling the difference between two tunes. (Ani provides these specific examples in this talk, citing the research of Isabelle Peretz.) These problems can range from melody perception/production, rhythm perception/production, and the emotional response to music, which has elucidated that the brain has no specific musical center. This was found by observing and studying two groups: amusics without aphasia (language loss), and aphasics without amusia. This talk introduced me to another cool musician, composer Vissorion Shebalin, who suffered several strokes and lost his ability to speak

Intrigued by these findings, Ani’s lab (circa the 90′s) was the first to use brain imaging to study the processing patterns of music and language in health patients without brain damage. Using musical and linguistic sentences with grammatical anomalies (a wrong, “sour” note, or an incorrect verb tense), they found that the brain responses to were nearly identical. It has also been shown that some areas of the brain deemed specific to language, such as Broca’s area, are activated by music. The connection between music and language in the brain described by these findings is bolstered by another finding that musical and linguistic grammar impairment is significantly correlated, with the severity of one predicting the severity of other depending on the degree of aphasia or amusia.

Part IVBabies

Of most relevance to the current project, Ani divulged that humans are the only species that use music to soothe their young. Lullabies are universal among humans, as is “parentese,” the sing-song-like speech that adults tend to use around children. This summer’s research aims to continue to explore the merits of these behaviors on the health of newborns, in particular the cardiac surgery recoverees.

this time tomorrow, it’ll be three hours earlier

What a week! Preparing for my departure has been a full-time job, especially considering the added neuroticism of an individual who has ne’er-before traveled by air. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but I’m about to embark on my first adventure in the sky. Here are some thematically-appropriate tunes, even though I already booked my flight and I’m not going over the sea.

I’ve been shopping to smarten up/California-ize my wardrobe and gathering all of the last minute necessities that have spent a little too long simmering on the back burner. I just finished packing my carry-on, which barely falls under the limit in both weight and size, and my personal item, a stuffed-to-the-brim backpack complete with airplane snacks and enough reading material for a time period equivalent to the length of my flight cubed.

Tomorrow, the Cherichello clan is getting up bright and early to have a family breakfast before Dad has to go to work and my brother (Johnny) has to set off to school. Mom is taking the day off to take me to the airport, which I greatly appreciate.

Anyway, on a note directly relevant to the project, I received an e-mail about a required Biomedical Ethics training course that I had to take online due to my involvement with this summer’s music therapy research with human subjects. This course, mandated by the UCSD Institutional Review Board (IRB), ended up taking me longer than expected because I became fascinated with the array of completely unethical studies throughout history that led to today’s cautionary procedures. One study that sticks out for quite a number of scientific errors intended to determine whether sleeping or being physically active allowed for more digestion. The researcher fed two prisoners a large amount of food, then sent one to bed and one to engage in vigorous physical activity. Going through the lessons and quizzes of this course brought me back to this semester’s Experimental Methods and Statistics (colloquially, “Psych Stat”) at Haverford, as they mark one of the many prerequisites to my first engagement with IRB-approved research as a role other than “participant.” Although I have conducted two group studies at school, both have been for lab classes and thus have not gone through the IRB. I feel so legit!

To further build on this legitimacy, I’m continuing my progress with Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and Music Therapy for Premature Infants (I’ve yet to mention the second in any detail, but that post is soon to come). Both have incited in me countless a-ha moments, whether they regard my own experience as a stressed person, my (limited, but growing) knowledge of infant development, or the power of music. If I were already in SD,  it would be merely 12:30 a.m. and my eyes would not be feeling the wee-hours-burn, so this post would include some of the content of these “a-has,” but for now, they must wait.

One last exiting update is that I meet Dr. Patel for the first time over lunch at the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) on Tuesday at noon, after which we are both heading over to Rady Children’s Hospital for the first meeting with Dr. Knight. I have training at the hospital during the next few mornings and will my afternoons at NSI.

In sum: sleep, family breakfast, Newark airport, California by 4:30 (7:30…), readreadread, acclimation. I can’t believe this thing that I’ve been talking about for so long and thinking about for even longer is happening. Wish me luck!

Note: Posts following this one should be full of photographs, pending the purchase of batteries for my camera.

Finishing Up

Patel, Reich, Agawu

I’m sitting here finishing up my paper on the role of music and language in the memories conveyed by Steve Reich’s speech-melody tape works like It’s Gonna Rain, and I realized that the primary theorist around whom I’m framing my argument is the father of one of my very close Haverfriends, Senyo Agawu ’13. Senyo and I share relentless interest in music and psychology, so I should have figured that the Agawu (Kofi) that authored “The Challenge of Semiotics” about the interrelations between music and language was related to the Agawu that I know. It never crossed my mind.

Speaking of my mind, it is pretty one-track these days. Luckily, that track is music, so it is kind of hard to get sick of it. In my struggle to finish my Reich paper, I needed to find something relevant (obviously) and interesting (also obvious, but at this point, I needed something interesting to keep myself awake) to bolster my argument. What else but the neuroscience of music and language, and memory encoding? In my search for appropriate articles, I came across one by none other than Dr. Aniruddh Patel, for whom I will be working this summer, called “Language, Music, Syntax, and the Brain.” So, here I am, sitting in a computer lab across from Senyo, listening to the birds chirp and wishing they’d stop, but getting through, still, with thoughts of my summer.

Side note: the linguistic study of syntax looks pretty wild, judging from my Google image search of syntax diagrams.

Wish i were.

Wish this could be true.

Summer Research

This summer Genna Cherichello ‘11 will be in San Diego, CA, working with Aniruddh D. Patel, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) and Gail Knight, M.D., Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rady Children’s Hospital. Their collaborative project will focus on how music affects physiological measures of stress in babies recovering from cardiac surgery.



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