Skip to main content

Spectrum: Autism Research News

News The latest developments in autism research.

Community Newsletter: EEG software impact, Neuropixels probe, prenatal pollution

by  /  14 August 2022
Angelique Paulk /

Ready to update your toolbox? Many scientists on Twitter are discussing two new studies highlighting ways to sharpen your lab kit.

Up first is a new preprint shared by Aya Kabbara, a researcher at the Lebanese Association for Scientific Research in Tripoli. She and her colleagues examined how software tools used to preprocess electroencephalography (EEG) signals influence analyses and conclusions.

The researchers reanalyzed shared EEG data using three of the most commonly used software tools: EEGLAB, Brainstorm and FieldTrip. They found enough variability to provide “valuable clues to better understand the impact of the software tool on the analysis of EEG results.”

In a reply, Marius Klug, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Berlin Mobile Brain/Body Imaging Lab in Germany, posited one potential cause of the variability — filters — and added, “This is a jungle.”

Kabbara replied, “Very important point! Another source of variability related to the filtering step is our inability in some toolboxes to configure the filter to have the same type and order used in the original study.”

In a quote tweet, Mark Melnykowycz, a scientist at IDUN Technologies in Zurich, Switzerland, wrote “EEG and data prepossessing are intimately tied to neuroscience results, great to see a replication study focused on the connection between the two.”

The Chang Lab at the University of California, San Francisco also shared a new study, this one focused on showing that a popular tool used in rodents, the Neuropixels probe, can be used safely in people to record large numbers of single neurons simultaneously.

The team implanted the probes into the cerebral cortices of “both awake and anesthetized patients undergoing clinically necessary brain surgery.”

Dana Boebinger, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Rochester in New York, wrote, “Really exciting work, bringing us closer to being able to record from single neurons in humans (albeit those who are already undergoing clinically necessary neurosurgery),” in a quote tweet.

Also tweeting about the study, Vincent Costa, assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University, wrote “This [is] heroic but damn….Table 1 might as well be a Hieronymus Bosch painting depicting the horrors of using Neuropixels in large, pulsating brains.”

To which Nick Steinmetz, assistant professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, replied, “Is it so bad? I think breaking a probe on three of your first six tries but being able to quickly improve so that attempts 10-15 were all successful seems like a better-than-expected outcome for any technology but especially for a 20µm-thick probe designed for rodents.”

Costa responded, “Oh I don’t blame the technology at all and I applaud the effort and the transparency. But for labs on a budget and with limited resources (both in terms of probes and subjects) this is sobering.”

An atmosphere of excitement also hovered around a new mouse-modeling study that explored how prenatal exposure to air pollution and stress affects neurodevelopment in mice.

Staci Bilbo, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, tweeted a thread about her research, saying, “Combined exposures robustly activated the moms’ immune system and led to striking social and communication deficits primarily in male offspring.”

“This project inspired me to pursue a postdoc with @staci_bilbo and @c_eroglu,” responded Trisha Vaidyanathan, a postdoc at Duke University, in a quote tweet. “Read more below for answers to some really important and exciting questions!”

Carina Block, co-author on the study and a postdoc at Duke University, was proud to see the work published, tweeting, “Microglia, the tiny but mighty stars of this week’s cover.”

“Another terrific story on the importance of microglia in development!” tweeted Annie Vogel Ciernia, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

“Look forward to reading this and congrats on the cover beautiful!” tweeted Beth Stevens, associate professor of neurology at Harvard University.

Lior Brimberg, assistant professor of neuroimmunology at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, tweeted “Such an important and overlooked cause.”

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@Spectrum), Instagram and LinkedIn.

Subscribe to get the best of Spectrum straight to your inbox.

Cite this article: