From Start to Finish: What Goes Into a Study -- Day 467: SfN, planned follow-up, writing

This series of posts is documenting the journey of my first first-author project, from the infancy of the research through publishing. I am highlighting the major checkpoints of the project — when things move forward or backward — rather than a daily update because that would seriously be boring. Just about all the content discussed will be directly related to the project I’m working on.

If you haven’t read the previous posts, check these out!
Day 1
Day 2 – 7
Day 27
Day 82
Day 145
Day 193
Day 197
Day 203
Day 216
Day 224
Day 233
Day 235
Day 299
Day 360
Day 463

Check out the next day... Day 527

Day 467: SfN

They said it'd be long to get your first first-author paper out. 467 days in counting.

We presented all the data we've collected up to now at Society for Neuroscience in Washington DC on November 19th. My RA was with me to help present -- it was her first conference.

Most of the comments were Cool study; makes sense. Which to me is very encouraging but also... maybe the question we're asking wasn't as challenging? I generally fear when people agree with me. Why was it so sensible? Is it low-hanging fruit? Have you read about a similar finding before? Tell meeee....

I generally never think I actually explained it well or that the design was set up well. I believe they call it imposter syndrome.

My RA didn't know what to expect. I tried to get her ready for practically everything -- the good, the bad, the rare/hard questions, the 2-minute/5-minute/10-minute walkthrough versions -- but she was stumped by one researcher. In a fairly unconstructive and hostile manner.

A younger researcher came up and first asked about the topographs. She didn't know the word -- I was the one who made the topomaps for our data -- and her answer of "I don't know what you mean" clearly was a sign of weakness for this professor. He began to lay into her about how we are misrepresenting data and how we have data that would be "skeptical". She had no real answer for what he was trying to say -- which essentially was "your data means nothing" -- so after he mansplained data visualization to her, he began to leave. He stuck his hand out to shake mine and not hers.

That really sent a clear message to my RA. She started asking me about his questions and if I knew him and I said I knew his work from before but I don't know him personally. She was shaken up by the interaction. When my PI came around, my RA asked her if it was because she was a woman. My PI said "That was my first thought, but maybe he's just a jerk."

Hard to say.

Also, our data isn't misrepresentative of activity. We use fewer channels than most EEG caps, but our channel data is what we are doing statistics on -- not the entire scalp.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 7.03.10 PM

This was one of the figures in question. He didn't really care much about the awesome finding we have here -- cooperation choices (on the left) show less alpha desynchrony than defection choices (on the right). Rather, he cared about the data we were representing in between the points. We are showing activation where we aren't recording activation. That's true. There are activities between channels that we aren't recording. Visualization used the topoplot.m script in MATLAB, which interpolates activation between channels. This visualization has 8 points of data, averaged across 40 participants (each participant makes 24 choices). The distance between channels aren't ideal, but it's what I have to work with. Furthermore, the data analysis is specific to the channels we are analyzing -- I'm not proclaiming more than what my data says. I'm not saying areas we didn't record have the same activation or significance. That's just how it comes out with this particular channel montage with my particular data.

Aside from that one guy, my RA actually had many people talk to her about the actual findings and implications of our study. She had a good time. As did I -- I was overall happy with the enthusiasm over our results.

Follow-up study

Since my study didn't accurately replicate (behaviorally) previous Prisoner's Dilemma or Snowdrift designs, we changed the methods so the behavioral results are now similar to how they are reported in the majority of literature.

There are some clear questions we are asking here:

  1. Are the neural differences during the accurate behavioral replication different from the neural differences during the inaccurate behavioral replication?
  2. If there are differences in choosing to cooperate or choosing to defect, what direction is the difference? Is there increased alpha activation for cooperation versus defection because of the sense of teamwork?
  3. If there are differences in strategies, what direction are the differences? More cooperative strategies would have greater risk in a competitive situation -- how much alpha do you elicit during these strategies?

We are nearly done with data collection for this aspect of the study. In terms of analysis, I feel like I got ~a month's-worth. Then it's writing.


I've been given the OK to submit a manuscript for review as early as February. Now, that's just not going to happen. I think I'd be done with data collection by February. Analysis by the end of March.

But completion of writing at this point won't finish until May. We can still write about things that won't change -- that's the basis of our theory and methods. And also, a good chunk of results and a handful of discussion based off of the first experiment.

So we have begun the writing process. We are probably 80% done with methods for experiment 1 -- need some editing and a review from my PI, but it's functionally all there. Methods for experiment 2 are nearly identical, so I'm not too worried about that section either. Introduction is outlined and still needs a good amount of work. Stats for experiment 1 are written. We're doing work. I'm hoping to start shopping this around in April/May.

Estimated finish (aka publication): Fall 2015. And that is kind of amazing to actually be able to see the light.

The next update will be probably be in January/February, unless I am invited to give some sort of talk on my research.

Until next time, my handful of friends.

P.S. If you're interested in seeing my poster, you can download the PDF here! If you'd like me to walk you through it, just shoot me an email.

Check out the next post... Day 527!


Leave a Reply