Robert Clarke, from cohort 3, has been busy in October attending training courses for his research on the control of brain-actuated robotic arms, and writes about his recent visits.
11th – 14th October 2022
“At the beginning of October, I went to the Universal Robots Czech Republic office to complete their Core training programme for the UR3e robot; as this is one of the robots I will be exploring for my research project.
As part of the training, I learnt how to use the ‘teach pendant’ (a tablet device) that is used to control the robot. Over the two-day course, I learned how to plot and execute a trajectory using a series of waypoints, optimise this trajectory and set safety boundaries for the robot. Alongside this, many of the functions in the software were explained and used. As these robots are mainly used in industrial settings, I also learned how to write programs to control the arm to do a number of commercial tasks, such as picking and placing objects on a conveyer belt, palletising (stacking objects vertically and horizontally in a regular pattern) and force application against a plane.
The course was extremely useful and gave me knowledge that I can incorporate into how I would control the robot for my research.”
18th – 21st October 2022
“I went to Austria to visit g.Tec Medical to learn how to use their g.Pangolin EEG system. This is an ultra-high density EEG system which they have developed for BCI applications. The first day at g.Tec was spent conducting a D2 and motor imagery experiment using a 64 channel EEG. The D2 paradigm is used to measure a person’s attention to a particular stimulus (a letter ‘d’ with two dots above it) and motor imagery involves a person imagining moving a limb, without actually executing the action. I took part in the setup of the experiments, applying the cap and gel.
In the afternoon, we conducted the same motor imagery experiment with the g.Pangolin, which in comparison had four times more electrodes placed over a smaller area of the participant’s scalp. I was also able to take part in the setup by preparing the electrodes, applying them to the subject’s scalp and attaching them to the amplifier. After the experiment was completed, I was shown the software that is used to analyse this data, how to build models using Simulink and how to visualise the data on a model of the participant’s brain taken with MRI.
On the second day, I was able to sit in on a rehabilitation session, where a patient was using motor imagery to direct electrical stimulation to the muscles in her forearms. The muscles would contract and lift up if the system correctly classified the hand she was intending to move. The patient was suffering from reduced motor function in her left hand and after the session, the therapist told me that the sessions had been going well and this patient has improved significantly to the point where they were regaining fine motor control. It was quite interesting to see both sides of the company, and how the research into new technology is being translated to medical interventions that were previously not possible.”
University of Ulster, Northern Ireland
23rd – 29th October 2022
“At the end of October I went to the Computational Neuroscience, Neurotechnology and Neuro-inspired AI Autumn School at Ulster University. In this Autumn School we attended several lectures and labs on several topics ranging from brain-computer interfaces to neuromorphic computing.
On the first day, we learned about the basics of neuroscience with a lab to simulate a neuron spike in the afternoon. Day 2 had lectures focused on computational neuroscience, with a lab based on simulating ion channels in a synapse and astrocyte interaction. Day 3 was focused on brain-computer interfaces, with a lab on spiking neural networks in the evening. Day 4 was dedicated to neuromorphic computing, where speakers gave a number of talks about how to make both hardware and software more efficient by taking inspiration from the brain.
The final day was industry-focused where we heard from the Director of Neuroconcise and the Autumn School’s sponsor, Seagate. Also, during the week, we did a number of tours around the campus to see their robotics lab, MRI lab and spatial computing hub. The Autumn School overall extremely informative to see the diversity in research areas and how they feed into and from neuroscience research and AI. Attending was extremely beneficial, as I was able to learn about concepts that I can incorporate into my research.”