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Miguel Yakouma Abstract Approved by the Association for Research in Otolaryngology

My name is Miguel Armistice Yakouma. I am originally from the Central African Republic, and I am currently a senior at the University of Rochester. I spent a considerable part of my life in Senegal where I studied for six years prior to the African Leadership Academy in 2017. After ALA, I was steered by my passion to join the University of Rochester with a unique goal to leverage the opportunity that the University’s medical center offers and accomplish my career goal to become a doctor.

Currently, I am studying Biomedical Engineering and I am also on the pre-medical track to apply to medical school. While pursuing my bachelor’s degree I am also involved in research. I am working with the Otolaryngology department. Our laboratory studies multisensory integration but focuses on the relationship between inertia and visual stimuli to understand how they are integrated into a perception of self-motion. In fact, Visual motion is either represented by external motion or self-motion and it is ambiguous in that sense. For this reason, visual-inertial integration is promising during self-motion as the two stimuli have a common causation. In other words, visual-inertial integration appropriately occurs when they (visual and inertia) have a consistent direction and a good temporal alignment. The current experiment analyses the hypothesis that visual motion must have a consistent motion profile with inertial motion for proper integration.

I spent last summer gathering data from human subjects for my research. After analysis, my personal investigator (PI) and I put together an abstract that was approved by the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO). Following the approval, we made a poster presentation with the result of the research. I presented at the 46th midwinter conference of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology in Orlando, Florida.

Twenty healthy human subjects were enrolled in the study. They experienced two seconds of translation motion which could be left or right of the central position. A 6-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) motion platform was used to deliver the inertial motion while a 55” color TV created the visual motion represented by a field of moving yellow triangles. The inertial heading was synchronized with two seconds visual heading represented at the following relative offsets: 0°, ±45°, ±60°, and ±75°. An inconsistent visual motion profile relative to the inertial motion was created by reversing the visual motion such that it started at a peak velocity, decreased to zero, and accelerated to the original peak velocity at the end of the stimulus in some trials. In other trials, the visual motion profile was consistent with the inertial motion profile. The integration of the two stimuli was measured by the subject’s bias in the inertial heading toward the visual motion. The result of this experiment demonstrated that a visual flow stimulus biased heading perception in the direction of the visual stimulus. The biases in the inverted visual motion profile were always smaller, meaning that its impact on inertial stimuli is weaker.

This study of visual inertia integration demonstrated that the velocity profile of the visual stimulus is considered in multisensory integration. However, it was a modest effect and even with an inverted velocity profile some visual-inertial integration occurred although the effect was smaller than for a velocity-matched stimulus. This effect was independent of the size of the directional offset and thus present even for large differences in visual and inertial heading directions.

I am planning to get a master’s degree in biomedical engineering first, then apply to medical school. Aware of the challenges and limited opportunities for international students, my second option would be to turn the master’s program into a Ph.D. if I am not able to find funds for my medical study. My plan for Africa is enormous because I would like to innovate in the health system and bring more technology that would enhance the healthcare system. In fact, this is exactly what a biomedical engineer strives to achieve.

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