Xu Zhang (Shawn)

Ph.D. Student (Fall 2017 – now)


About my research:

Just like many others, I became interested in the neural-machine interface while I was an undergraduate. Starting as an engineering student, I picked a rather practical approach — studying myoelectric control of prostheses, in other words, utilizing the electric signals from the muscle to control external devices through pattern recognition algorithms. My undergraduate research was quite fruitful, but I discovered that my real interest is more about the science underlying neurological conditions. Therefore, when I considered pursuing a PhD, I decided to go the other way round — trying to understand how external stimulation, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), interferes with intrinsic neurological activities to achieve its therapeutic merits. But before confronting this question, I want to gain a better understanding of how neurological activities are formed in the brain in the first place.

        Prior to joining UConn, I had stayed in UCLA Neurosurgery for two months and studied brain connectivity in Parkinsonian patients using electrophysiological signals. However, I soon discovered that directly delving into clinical data was not my style, and I would be more at ease to approach the basis of abnormal neuronal activities from the bottom up through computational modeling. Therefore, I turned to studying the mechanism of essential tremor (ET), which is as prevalent and as poorly understood as Parkinsonism, but better characterized by tremor-band oscillations in the cerebello-thalamic pathway. Recently, I proposed a possible mechanism of essential tremor, which explains how tremor oscillations could occur under cerebellar GABAergic dysfunctions (check here for details).

        I have joined the Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) at UConn as an IBRAiN fellow since fall 2018.


B.Eng. in Biomedical Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology (China), 2017

Publications: Google Scholar ResearchGate ORCiD

Journal Papers:

  • Botvinik-Nezer, R. et al. (2019) Variability in the analysis of a single neuroimaging dataset by many teams. bioRXiv. DOI: 10.1101/843193
  • Zhang, X., Santaniello, S. (2019) Role of cerebellar GABAergic dysfunctions in the origins of essential tremor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1817689116. NEURON codes are available at http://modeldb.yale.edu/257028.
  • Zhang, X., Li, X., Samuel, O. W., Huang, Z., Fang, P., & Li, G. (2017). Improving the robustness of electromyogram-Pattern recognition for Prosthetic control by a Postprocessing strategy. Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 11, 51. DOI: 10.3389/fnbot.2017.00051
  • Li, X., Samuel, O. W., Zhang, X., Wang, H., Fang, P., & Li, G. (2017). A motion-classification strategy based on sEMG-EEG signal combination for upper-limb amputees. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 14(1), 2. DOI: 10.1186/s12984-016-0212-z

Conference proceedings and poster presentations:

  • Zhang, X., Hancock, R., Santaniello, S. (2019) Modeling the cellular effects of transcranial electrical stimulation on the cerebellum. Presented at SfN Neuroscience 2019, 21 October.
  • Zhang, X., Santaniello, S. (2018) A computational model of the cortico-cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathway under essential tremor and cerebellar neuromodulation. Presented at 2018 Joint meeting of NYC Neuromodulation Conference & NANS Summer Series, 25 August, and SfN Neuroscience 2018, 5 November.
  • Li, X., Zhuo, Q., Zhang, X., Samuel, O. W., Xia, Z., Zhang, X., Fang, P., & Li, G. (2016). FMG-based body motion registration using piezoelectret sensors. In Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), 2016 IEEE 38th Annual International Conference of the (pp. 4626-4629). IEEE. DOI: 10.1109/EMBC.2016.7591758
  • Samuel, O. W., Li, X., Zhang, X., Wang, H., & Li, G. (2015). A hybrid non-invasive method for the classification of amputee’s hand and wrist movements. In IFMBE Proceedings, International Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Health Informatics (ICBHI 2015), 9–10 October. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-10-4505-9_34

Fun fact: I like playing the piano and the violin (much better at the former though).