Saturday, June 16, 2007

Week 3 is coming to an end and things are still going really well. I spent the first two weeks reviewing the literature on the relationship between possible links visuospatial transformations and perspective-taking (adopting a first or third person perspective) and the mechanism by which we distinguish ourselves from others as well as the involvement of the parietal lobe in these functions. I am just finishing up programming an experiment which examines various types of mental transformations--transformations of objects and transformations of people, which is strongly suggested to involve simulation of own-body movements to arrive in the same orientation as the target. I wll also examine if background context provides a cue as to whether to adopt a first or third person perspective when mentally rotating or taking the perspective of another person. Using questionnaires, I will also explore a possible link between visuospatial perspective taking and higher-order theory of mind type perspective taking. Anyways, that was a mouthful :) Next week I hope to begin recruiting both healthy volunteers and parietal lesion patients to perform the experiment.

On Thursday before the Research Ambassadors meeting in Lausanne, I visited Olaf Blanke's group at the EPFL--they are doing some really cool work on perspective-taking, how the mind perceives the body, and out-of-body experiences. I got a chance to meet with the grad students and sit in on a course. I didn't really have that much time to form super-strong impressions about differences between grad school here and in the States, but something I did notice was that there seemed to be much less of a 'Publish or Perish' sort of attitude. A lot of the students seemed to have a main project, and then a few other side "fun" projects they were working on and it seemed to me that they were more likely to pursue more out-of-the-box creative and unique ideas than grad students in the US. I've also noticed that with Peter Brugger--that people here seem to have a little more fun with experiments and enjoy the exploratory aspect of it. I don't know if it's because it's more competitive to get a faculty job in the US or because there is more funding here, or it's just unique to the labs that I've been to here.

Also enjoying life outside of the lab! I'm living with 6 other ETH students, so I feel like I'm really getting a sense of what it's like to live and be a student there. I'm also being forced into being a fan of the Stuttgard football team and to learn all the Germany cheers. Today I rode a bike for the first time since I was.. 8 maybe... and lived to tell the tale. And it was great meeting some of the others in Lausanne on Friday!


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