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FNNDSC Weekly Newsletter - Week 76

Upcoming Events

MICCAI Conference: The deadline for submission of workshop proposals is 20 December 2021

Organization for Human Brain Mapping: OHBM 2022 is scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland from June 19, 2022 - June 23, 2022! The deadline to submit an Abstract for OHBM 2022 is: Friday, December 17, 2021 at 11:59 PM EST. (Under no circumstances will this deadline be extended).

Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS): Abstract Submission Important Dates

Call for Abstracts: November 10, 2021, – January 5, 2022

Brain & Brain PET 2022: Abstract Submission due January 2022

The 22nd International Conference on Biomagnetism: August 28 – September 1, 2022

University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Call for Abstracts/Posters submissions has been extended to Friday March 18, 2022


FNNDSC Project Update(s):


The NIRS team enrolled four subjects in their NICU studies this week, with two in their Perinatal Brain Injury study and two in Dr. Brooke Krbec's Finapres study. In total, the team performed thirteen measurements, both on their newly enrolled infants as well as on two previously-enrolled participants in another NICU study.

The NIRS team looks forward to another productive week next week!


Last Week's Fun Fact Friday: Rudolph Pienaar, Dr.Eng!

I was born in the United Kingdom in the 1970s of South African parents.

My dad was a diplomat working at the SA High Commission in London at the time. Pretty much all of my family hails from and lives still in South Africa -- land of blue skies, safaris, complex-history, 365 days-out-the-year barbeques, Mandela (love him!), rugby, cricket, sane units of measure, the Oxford comma, and proper English spelling. The Rainbow Nation. Oh? Pet peeve? Don't confuse SA English for Aussie. You insult both Australians and South Africans with that. Neither SAns nor Aussies sound British or remotely like each other but that's a subtlety I've found lost on many in the US. I do think SA English probably has better Received Pronunciation than whatever passes for English Down Under, though (oh, fun fact, I actually love Australia. I once had the wonderful opportunity to snorkel off the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland. Stunning). I also speak Afrikaans fluently -- Afrikaans is what happens when you isolate Dutch for 300 years in Africa. I can mostly understand modern Dutch as a result, but goodness they have terrible accents! It's easier to read I guess. Dutchies say Afrikaans sounds like weird grammatically incorrect nautical-Shakespearean to them. Archaic and odd. Potato, potatto I say.

After merry old England, my father was posted to the South African Embassy in Washington, DC. I spent a good chunk of my teenage life in McLean, VA. Think American suburbs. No, not like Boston suburbs. The real thing. McMansions galore. One thing I clearly still remember is every Saturday morning McLean would test their air raid sirens. Lest we forget that this was the 80s (yes, I'm dating myself - again) and the height of the Cold War, and McLean was tucked snugly within nuclear blast radius of DC, the Pentagon, and the CIA (geez, that's depressing). I do remember teenage me thinking back in the day, "How is an air raid siren going to help? If Russia hits the button? Seriously?"

Oh you see, Russia was the big bad baddie then. I guess they kinda still are? But less so. I dunno... I'm an engineer not a political scientist (thank goodness). I'm sure most readers won't remember Saturday morning cartoons -- trust me, it was a Thing. Anyway, our McLean Saturday mornings had air raid sirens. Usually between "The Smurfs" and "Voltron". Yes, my formative childhood was in the "Stranger Things" timeline. I bonded with my kids over that fact. I like to think history has moved on and improved since then. Often times I wonder, though.

McLean, VA soon gave way to Pretoria, South Africa, and I finished up high school "back home" at Pretoria Boys' High School. I'd say google it, but heck, just imagine Hogwarts in Africa and you've pretty much got it. Oh, and my classmate for Form IV and Form V (that's what we called Grade 11 and 12) was none other than Elon Musk. We were mates after a fashion (again that's what we call being "buds" out in the ex-colonies). And no, I don't really have contact with him anymore. No free Tesla for me!

I did a Bachelor's and Master's in Electrical, Electronic, and Computer Engineering at the University of Pretoria. Varsity in South Africa was pretty straightforward, even if South African history at that time was convulsing. I'm proud though to have voted in the first fully inclusive democratic election in SA in '94 and to say Mandela was legit my President. While a student, I was also part of a non governmental group called IDASA -- Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa

-- and was working as an Election Observer. I was able to see the voting process not only in my then-lily-white suburb, but also to see it in far flung stations about the province. All those people standing patiently in the chilly April Autumn morning sun to vote. History.

Participating. Up close and personal. It was amazing. (Oh, and in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons are the inverse of here. I had this weird idea I might have to spell that out.)

I digress a tad. University. In South African you just went to the University closest to you and didn't really think twice. Nothing like the bizarreness here in the US (and yes, I have one kid in college and another about to start) so I can call it bizarre. It's still a bit strange to me how in the US it's not enough apparently to just say "I studied Engineering". You have to also say where you studied. Anyway, I worked for a bit after my Master's at a Defense Electronics Company and then came over to the US in the late 1990's for a Doctorate in Biomedical Engineering. At that point my first child, a daughter, was just shy of a year old.

My Doctorate was smack in the middle of the Midwest -- Cleveland (I've heard it referred to as the Paris of Ohio -- all I can say is Ohio is not la France). Still, I ended up enjoying my time in Cleveland and my research at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Lake Erie would freeze in the winter, but given lingering wave action it wouldn't freeze as a single smooth sheet. No, it would freeze into jagged sharp edges and hidden crevases. An alien, frozen, and beautiful landscape. I think Cleveland gets a bad rap, alas. My second child, also a daughter, hails from Cleveland Heights so I have to say it's a good place! And heck by golly, I like good old US MidWestern values. People are actually friendly! Almost like Canadians! (kidding. Only slightly)

My Doctorate was in a Machine Learning field called Reinforcement Learning. I think the details are fun facts, but I've been told they are not. So I won't explain what RL is. I used it though to act as a self-learning control system for human posture control. I tweaked the mathematics so that the algorithm would self-optimize itself to control a say paraplegic patient -- basically allow someone to stand without falling by controlling their legs and torso for them. Don't worry, no real humans were harmed in this movie -- it was all software simulation. When I finished up I wanted to go into robotics, autonomous navigation, etc. This was the early 2000s and "AI" was in one of its cyclic winters (spoiler -- there have been several, and apologies to George RR Martin but in my opinion regarding AI, "Winter is coming".

Again. I can say that since I actually studied in the field. And also, AI isn't about to take over the world demand voting rights - no matter what tech billionaires who never studied the field think). Anyway, all the interesting work was in government labs like Los Alamos and not available to non-US-citizens like me (then). Around that time, 9/11 happened and the space of advanced robotics work clammed up even more.

So I shifted to the bread-and-butter of Electronic Engineering, image processing. This led me to postdoc at Mass General Hospital in image analysis of MRI. It's also where I met Ellen when I was a postdoc in her lab and I suppose in some respects the rest is history. Sometime soon after I started there my third child, a son was born here in Winchester, MA. Along they way I picked up US citizenship -- just in time for the 2016 US elections. I can say I'm someone who had both Mandela and the former US president as their elected officials. Facts like that make me think the universe has a sense of humour (oh, see the spelling? That's the correct spelling). So I have three nationalities

-- UK, US, and SA. As a result my idea of "national identity" and "patriotism" is complex.

If you've been keeping track, yes, I have three kids, and my youngest is a high school senior and in the midst of college applications.

Having done this more than once, all I can say is I'm going to be super thankful when it's all over. I'm not married, but I'm not single though

-- I'm very happily involved with a fellow scientist (in a different field). She is in Woodshole on the Cape -- a mecca of sorts for science

-- and studies greenhouse gas emissions in water systems, specifically at the boundary between natural water systems in the Amazon and farm lands that encroach on those natural water systems. Unlike us folks in medical imaging, her data collection means physically going to the Amazon, building devices, hiking and kayaking out into the field, inserting gas-o-meters in pools of water, camping, and collecting measurements. All under the Brazilian sun and Southern Stars. And no HIPAA! Science on a planetary scale! I'm so jealous. I want to tag along. One of my hobbies is flying drones and I've been trying to convince her I can hack my drone to autonomously fly down a river. You know. For science. I've also been trying to get her to use ChRIS. She has said, "Darling, I barely use MatLAB. And what's a Linux container anyway? For some reason you seem to love them." I see my work is cut out for me.

Anyway, this is supposed to be fun facts about me. Let's see... my hobbies? I'd say it's a given that I love sci-fi and fantasy. Watching

(binging?) movies late at night... with some wine. Wait, if I say wine is a hobby that sounds less like a hobby and more like a problem. Good food is definitely not a hobby, it's a requirement. Cheese, good bread, music. Such goodness. Ok, and wine. South Africa has great wine, just throwing that in there.

I make time to stay active -- I do at least one of biking, running, or rock climbing almost every day (these days indoor climbing). I even got used to the Boston cold. Cross country skiing in the Middlesex Fells is great! That was when it used to snow more in Boston in the Before Climate Change Times. I bike commute to work each day (well did at least before COVID) from the suburbs of Winchester year round -- about 20km one way. I had an arbitrary cutoff -- if it was less than -10C I wouldn't bike. Oh, that's a "fun" fact about me. Or is it a pet peeve?

Could be both -- anyway, I actually hate (yes, I'm using that work

purposefully) the US system of units. Now that I'm a citizen of the US, too, I can say that. Non metric units are just nonsensical. To me, seeing *fractions* on highway signs looks so strange. Next exit 1/4 mile? What's up with that? Oh, right, you can't say 0.25 miles since miles don't have sub-units. You would have to say, what? 1,000 feet? I still don't get it.

I'm sure I annoy friends and my kids since I absolutely refuse to give data or measurements in non-metric units. Sorry Herz and Avis for all the times I set your car rentals to km and degrees C (actually I'm not sorry). Oh, and I give time in sane units, too, i.e. 24 hour format (no, that's not military time -- it is literally what most of the planet Earth uses -- although I've been told not in India. Sigh).

Honestly though... 10:45pm requires 7 characters. Plus I think it is kind of culturally insensitive since am/pm are mostly English-language things. In Afrikaans/Dutch it is "vm/nm" (voormiddag, namiddag). So to be culturally aware in two languages you should say 10:45pm/nm Or 10:45[np]m. This is non-scalable and gets crazy fast. How is that better than 2245 that needs only 4 characters and works everywhere? OK, five characters -- 22:45.

I like to think I can be fun (but I suspect people close have to tolerate my quirks at the same time). I have a dry sense of humour. I don't like DIY -- the idea of, "Hey, it's Saturday... I know. I'll go build a deck!" will never willingly or happily spring from my mind. I admire people who like that mostly because I so don't get it. I love open source and open science with a passion. Which means by extension Linux. I tolerate macOS since it is really Unix under the glossiness.

In mac I mostly use the terminal anyway. None of this point-clickiness for me thank you. Apple kind of frustrates me with their mobile OS so it's something of a wash. I mean an iPad already runs macOS (it does, trust me) -- can't you just give us a sane UI? I honestly don't understand Windows. I spend times at night wondering why people in computational science would ever willingly choose it. But then again some folks choose miles and pounds apparently so what do I know? I've been told that many sane folks simply don't spend nights wondering about these things. Ever. They have better things to worry about and/or they just sleep well.

I love reading (once upon a time when I could read for leisure... now when I get into bed I mostly just fall asleep). I try my hand sometimes at Haikus. I like how the structure forces you be creative within its strict syllabic requirements -- similarly cell phone photography. You have less control over the image capture so have to be creative with the composition. I like cooking but don't have a deep intuition for what tastes really go together. I don't especially like sweet -- definitely more a savoury kind of guy. I like how cooking is a bit of a science and an art. My kids seem to like my food, but then again if they don't they go hungry so that might not be an unbiased sample. And I'm kidding again of course. They can all cook up a storm and should actually be cooking for me I think.

What else? I love dogs -- not really a cat person. Ironically I have two cats at home and no dog (see note above about Universe and sense-of-humour). Oh, and a bird. A cockatiel -- my eldest daughter's.

I like her more than the cats. I meant I like the bird more than the cats. My daughter too. I like her more than the cats also. Poor cats.

Mostly I just like to try and enjoy life, take things a bit philosophically and not too seriously and do my best. I think this field and work we are all engaged in is tremendously rewarding. Well, I've spent too much time on this. It's Friday. The sun is shining on this late Fall Day and I'm actually thinking of taking time over lunch to do a bike ride!

PS --- attached is a pic of me in my happy place, the Middlesex Fells where I run and bike. Drone on my back and a bird on the shoulder.


FNNDSC Lecture Series with Guest Speaker: Dr. Hyun Ju Lee

Date/Time: Wednesday November 10, 2021 @ 12 PM

Title: Follow-up study with the altered brain development beyond brain injury after preterm birth


Significant recent improvements in the capacity of the neonatal intensive care unit to administer preterm care have engendered a burgeoning interest in the neurodevelopment of premature infants. Accumulating evidence indicates that such children suffer from multiple neurodevelopmental disorders; indeed, this population features 34–49% and 10–16% of children born very preterm of developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), respectively. Although the early identification of children with mild cognitive delay is challenging at younger ages, early intervention may help mitigate adverse consequences to their mental health and long-term educational achievement. There is growing evidence that the aberrant development of WM substrates in very preterm infants preceded the manifestation of cognitive delay and language deficits. Recent studies using advanced neuroimaging techniques have revealed meaningful differences in white matter microstructure and structural brain networks between preterm infants and term-born neonates as early as near-term age, which persists through adulthood. This presentation will introduce neuroimaging approaches to identify early brain injury, atypical brain development, and disturbances in brain maturation in the preterm neonate, relating to neurodevelopmental scores in longitudinal studies. Additionally, we will present our ongoing study involving deep learning solutions and imaging genetics using SNP arrays in associated genes in the perinatal period.


Hyun Ju Lee is an associate professor at Hanyang University, Korea, where she works on clinical service within the neonatal intensive care unit and developmental center as a Neonatologist with a research focus on preterm-born infants. As all her research activities are clinical investigations, her studies and clinical care of preterm infants are tightly integrated, focusing on follow-up study of later neurodevelopmental outcomes. Her research is targeted at developmental neuroimaging and understanding the mechanisms and impact of altered trajectory on brain development in infants at high risk for the neurodevelopmental disorder, including the prematurely-born infant, the sick term-born infant, and the infant with autism. Her research investigates improving method of progress monitoring and prognosis prediction and early intervention for developing the brain. This research work has utilized technologies including amplitude-electroencephalography, eye tracking, and magnetic resonance imaging.

Zoom meeting information:

Password: 893773

Or dial in from your telephone:

Internally: x28882

Externally: 646-558-8656 (Primary)

408-638-0968 (If you are unable to dial into the primary number)

Or iPhone one-tap:

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Meeting ID: 927 4673 4652


Brain Games



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