SfN2015 – Days 3 and 4

MONDAY – I kicked things off yesterday by visiting the vendor booths.  The first stop was Wearable Sensing, where I was able to see an EEG headset using dry electrodes.  In our research at HCD, we shy away from using EEG because of several reasons, one of which being the use of electrode gel on the scalp, which is an unpleasant experience for the participant.  The Wearable Sensing equipment didn’t seem too cumbersome, and it may be an option for us in future research.

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The next stop was the Tobii Pro booth, where I got to meet their team.  They had a few cool things in the works, one of which was a eye tracking with VR headsets.  Their prototypes included an Oculus-based setup and a Google Cardboard-based setup.  With the Oculus setup, I was taken through a virtual store, and got a tour up and down the aisles.  It was a bit disorienting, because I was not moving my body in sync with my virtual self.  At HCD, we’ve discussed the applications of VR for consumer insight studies in store simulations like this.  I believe it takes a certain type of person to allow themselves to be immersed in a virtual world, and there are a large number of people that would find it a very jarring experience.

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Since I hadn’t gotten a chance to catch any talks up until this point, I picked out a few interesting ones.  I decided to check out a subject that hits very close to home, disrupted sleep, which had a minisymposium in the afternoon.  Disrupted sleep tends to be generally bad across the board, affecting everything from hormones to gene transcription, and the talk made me briefly rethink my personal habits.

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Next, I attended a special talk on the biology of mammalian taste, presented in the main hall by Dr. Charles Zuker.  For several years, I had worked in a lab studying the taste receptors of the tongue, and this was a bit of a jog down memory lane for me.  His argument was that taste provided a great example of how the brain interacts with the environment, and by manipulating specific genes, we get very distinct changes in the function of receptors and the perception of taste.

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I wrapped up the day by checking out Tobii’s satellite event at the Hyatt Regency.  There I got to hear a talk by Dr. Adam Kiefer on concussion prevention, with the implication that eye tracking technology can train athletes to pay more attention in instances where injury can be avoided.

TUESDAY – I attended a nanosymposium today on a subject a little more relevant to our interests at HCD:  emotional processing and regulation.

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There were several interesting talks, but the one that stood out for me was “Emotional modulation of loss and risk aversion in clinical anxiety.” One of the central ideas was that loss was weighted more heavily than gain for individuals with anxiety, leading them to take less risks in gambling scenarios.  It’s something to consider when looking at a person’s emotional experience within our own studies.

Tomorrow is the last day for me at this event.  It’s been interesting, somewhat exciting, at times overwhelming, and just generally exhausting.  Let’s do it again next year.  -Matt