The Brain
I have been fascinated with the brain since my teenage years and am interested in research that furthers our understanding of the underlying causes of and effective therapies for neurologic diseases. I am interested in the potential for neuroimaging to assist in our understanding of healthy and abnormal brain functionality and in developing effective therapies. My experience to date with neuroimaging has revealed very stimulating methodological and analytical challenges.
These fMRI images show my brain activity during a combined sensory task involving finger tapping and viewing a flashing checkerboard.
I aim to develop neuroscience methodologies that enable more nuanced models of brain functioning by optimizing computer science tools, such as machine learning methods, For example, developing analyses that capture individual differences in brain response would improve Support Vector Machine model accuracy, helping us to better understand underlying brain mechanisms. I am interested in developing new methods for analyzing brain data in isolation and in combination with behavioral and psychological measures. Similarly, I am interested in how multi-modal imaging, such as combined EEG and fMRI, will enrich datasets to enhance therapies.
Motor Control
In retrospect, my interest in neuroscience had its genesis in a fascination with how my brain mastered and controlled complex motion and movements as I studied and learned choreography. I grew up dancing - starting ballet at age 5 and continuing throughout high school and college. Along the way, I also dabbled in contemporary, jazz, hip hop and swing dancing. At Stanford I joined Swingtime! - a swing dance performance group (illustrated below) - and continued to perform after graduation with the Lindy Monsters in the San Francisco Bay Area.
My 20 years of dance training have raised many questions about motor control: How is it that we can desire to make a movement and then, without thinking about it, almost by reflex, get the brain to generate the right set of patterns of neural activities that then direct the body to perform the movements? Also, how does our brain learn to improve the design of neural activities that are reflected in the expert movements as we learn a skill or a sport? And how does the brain generalize from one set of skills to another?