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the etkin lab is taking a data-driven approach to find Neuroimaging patterns of brain-wide connectivity to define a biological "signature" for the illness POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD).

background on ptsd

  • PTSD affects around 8% of the United States population, and is an extraordinarily disruptive condition.

  • PTSD is a massive variation of the normal fight-or-flight response: sufferers experience flashbacks, waking nightmares and the re-living of traumatic events.

  • PTSD is characterized by difficulty in emotional regulation and spontaneous emotional disturbances, and has both genetic and environmental components.

The Project

The overarching aim of the Etkin Lab is to understand the underlying neural basis of emotion disorders and their treatment. 

The diversity of symptoms of PTSD make identification of its neural basis extremely difficult, requiring a data-driven approach to establish shared features across many subjects. The Etkin Lab uses repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) to selectively stimulate areas across the entire brain, and infer the differences resulting from PTSD. EEG and fMRI imaging along with graph-theoretic approaches are being used to parcel out the discrete nodes in the brain connective network that are particularly sensitive to PTSD, allowing researchers to posit neural and genetic causes of vulnerability to the disorder.

Students on this project will have the opportunity to apply their machine learning skills to vast datasets of deeply phenotyped and pre-processed fMRI, EEG, and TMS intervention studies collected from many labs. Student contributions will be directly used in ongoing research protocols with PTSD patients. 

technical skills

Students should have a strong grasp of:

  • Supervised and unsupervised machine learning techniques
  • Matlab