Analyzing and clustering neural data
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This thesis aims to analyze neural data in an overall effort by the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to determine an underlying pattern in brain activity in healthy individuals versus patients with a brain degenerative disorder. The neural data comes from ECoG (electrocorticography) applied to either humans or primates. Each ECoG array has electrodes that measure voltage variations which neuroscientists claim correlates to neurons transmitting signals to one another. ECoG differs from the less invasive technique of EEG (electroencephalography) in that EEG electrodes are placed above a patients scalp while ECoG involves drilling small holes in the skull to allow electrodes to be closer to the brain. Because of this ECoG boasts an exceptionally high signal-to-noise ratio and less susceptibility to artifacts than EEG . While wearing the ECoG caps, the patients are asked to perform a range of different tasks. The tasks performed by patients are partitioned into different levels of mental stress i.e. how much concentration is presumably required. The specific dataset used in this thesis is derived from cognitive behavior experiments performed on primates at MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital). The content of this thesis can be thought of as a pipelined process. First the data is collected from the ECoG electrodes, then the data is pre-processed via signal processing techniques and finally the data is clustered via unsupervised learning techniques. For both the pre-processing and the clustering steps, different techniques are applied and then compared against one another. The focus of this thesis is to evaluate clustering techniques when applied to neural data. For the pre-processing step, two types of bandpass filters, a Butterworth Filter and a Chebyshev Filter were applied. For the clustering step three techniques were applied to the data, K-means Clustering, Spectral Clustering and Self-Tuning Spectral Clustering. We conclude that for pre-processing the results from both filters are very similar and thus either filter is sufficient. For clustering we conclude that K- means has the lowest amount of overlap between clusters. K-means is also the most time-efficient of the three techniques and is thus the ideal choice for this application.
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