Christy Johnson – Expanding Relationships for All

As a teenager, Christine Johnson felt that her career was well-planned. Growing up in a small town in Indiana, she spent much of her childhood in the constellations and maps. She dreamed of becoming an astrophysist and pursued a strong education. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Johnson immediately began his PhD in physics at the University of Maryland.

When she met Leo Felix, everything changed, a rare genetic disorder characterized by only seven cases in the world. It is associated with developmental delays, speech impediments, severe mental retardation, autism, epilepsy and motor challenges.

“This was going to affect him for the rest of his life and so we became a family. I knew that instead of completing my PhD, I wanted to stay at home with him, ”Johnson said.

The future construction for her son

For the next five years, Johnson poured in to fulfill her commitment as a student. In the evenings, she spends most of her free time learning about astronomy and learning about college astronomy. Johnson studied genetics, neuroscience, and taught herself the American Sign Language as a new way to communicate with him.

But for Johnson, that was not enough. L Her was still struggling to meet the standards of development. He was very interested in certain songs and music but still did not participate or learn by himself. She realized that if she did not have the tools to succeed, she would have to work on her own. “I bought Ardu ino Non and started making things to respond to his activities and encourage him to learn,” says Johnson. “Most of the things I made were out of cardboard, wood chips, and old toys. I was able to make my first real prototype after receiving a $ 300 grant from an artiste asylum in Somerville.

As her son grew older, Johnson began to think about returning to research. But much of her purpose has changed. I realized that physics was no longer the love of my life – it was my son. And I knew I wanted to pursue research that would improve the lives of him and others like him, ”Johnson said.

Her old rhyme, which is entirely physics-based, has not been able to transmit countless hours of research into neurological development. In her search for a research program, she encountered several setbacks before finding MIT Media Lab, which accepts individuals with special backgrounds and focuses on multidisciplinary research. Johnson jokes: “It’s an academic island, just like inappropriate toys. “I am so grateful he was there. I have never felt more at home in my life. ”

Designing tools to improve communication and understanding

Today, Johnson is a senior graduate student at Picard Laboratory. She has led various projects that support individuals with neurological differences. Her work in the practical computer team uses wearable devices that measure changes in the electrical properties of the skin. “These devices can be worn on the wrist and serve as a proxy for sympathetic nervous responses,” she says.

“In the past, people like my son often found it difficult to get to the clinic. With the help of wearable devices, you can see people in their normal surroundings fluently, ”she says. Johnson combines these wearable sensors in patients with epilepsy and children with severe cerebral palsy and FMI. We are expanding our knowledge of what is really going on in the mind and how this relates to everyday life.

Johnson is currently collaborating with MIT graduate Jaya Narain and MIT Lincoln Laboratory and Harvard University researchers on a project that combines “Relationship” and “All”. The team is working to capture, identify, and differentiate words from the people she calls mv *. The term includes 20 or less speech words, possibly due to genetic impairment, mental retardation, autism spectrum disorder and / or other neurological conditions.

Silent vocals are sounds that have a synergistic effect or meaning, such as “hah” or “ah.” Their meanings have been studied in infants and many other species and animals, ”Johnson said. “However, they are not studied in mv * individuals, which is disturbing and irritating. Not only did my son fall into this category, but so did more than 1 million individuals in the United States. ”

These non-verbal voices can be recorded through the Komala app and named by the knowledgeable caregiver. All of this has been done remotely, which means that the study has continued throughout the global epidemic and has reached a geographically dispersed mv * community, Johnson said. The team then took these recordings and began developing machine learning models that could be used to translate individual sounds into real time. The recordings can also be easily shared to help those in contact with the person for the first time. “Many mv * individuals are talking loudly, but their audience is only trained for speech. We want to help them hear and understand. ” “I hope this project expands and we can grow into a new field.”

Johnson is looking forward to her PhD next week and recently received a post-doctoral degree at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she will continue her research on Interpretive Neuroscience for children with neurological disabilities. She hopes the study expands our understanding of all individuals and encourages individuals (including MV *) to be seen as doing what they can.

“Just like in astronomy, we have to study our mind indirectly,” says Johnson. We know we are beautiful, but what we do not yet understand is the vast human cosmos.


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