Tuesday, 20 October 2009

First month

Well, my PhD is now officially underway. It's been about three weeks since I started, and I now have an official title, Computational Modelling of Neurological Disorders, although work on an abstract for my Research Student Monitoring Group first report is progressing slowly (mainly due to my current seeming inability to sit still and read a paper for more than ten minutes at a time).

The change of title is significant; my original proposal was under the title Modelling the Robustness of Musical Memory in Dementia, however it's looking increasingly likely that -- although a valuable future route to take my research down, and certainly an interesting question in its own right -- it may be a bit too much to attempt for the duration of a PhD. By specifying "Computational Modelling" I create a stronger link with the Computer Science part of the PhD, and by broadening my scope to "Neurological Disorders" I can afford not to have to investigate the music question after all.

The original question was along the lines of "How is it possible that an Alzheimer's sufferer can forget their own name and identity, yet still be able to sing along to songs heard in childhood?" but initial investigation shows that one of the principal reasons for this ability lies in the vastly distributed nature of music processing in the brain, and particularly music's strong links to emotion. Investigating and modelling this in itself is likely to take years of research, so whilst remaining an interesting question, I may have to limit myself to the old tried-and-tested model of scientific investigation for a PhD:
  1. Read current knowledge
  2. Implement a model from the literature
  3. Test and improve model
  4. Write thesis
  5. Collect Nobel prize
I'll let you know how it goes.

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