Friday, July 12, 2013

I Am a Research Pawn Part 2

I was accepted as a subject in a medical research program studying Alzheimer’s at a local college (I Am a Research Pawn). My participation involved two hour-long lab sessions.

The research lab was located in a far corner of a classroom building at the edge of campus, the path from the parking lot clearly marked with ‘brain research’ signs. Exactly one minute early for my first session, I was quickly ushered into a two-room ‘brain lab’. Two young people, one recently graduated and the second with one semester of undergraduate work remaining, carefully explained the test procedure, then proceeded to conduct their experiment.

I was seated in front of a computer screen. A large headpiece of knotted beads was carefully placed over my head and part of my face. A picture of over 100 numbered beads in two different colors appeared onscreen. The researchers wet some pieces, activating the beads initially reading no brain activity. Once all the beads were a homogenous color indicating my brain was working (whew!), the first test began.

I sat immobile for three minutes with my eyes closed. My biggest concern was that I would fall asleep. The room was totally silent and, although morning, I can always fall asleep under the right circumstances.

Three minutes later the researcher directed me to open my eyes. Now I stared at the computer screen another three minutes, again motionless, attempting to clear my brain of all distracting thoughts.

Before I knew it the test was over and the headpiece removed. A multi-page questionnaire placed in front of me asked about my behaviors, such as –

·      Organization – on a scale of one to five, how organized are my drawers (kitchen or dresser –not specified, yet definitely makes a difference)  and bathroom? My standards and Martha Stewart’s (another senior who could most likely qualify for this research project) are, I am sure, poles apart. What does my disorganized ways mean?

·      Forgetfulness – how often are names, dates, and appointments forgotten?

·      Exercise – how often and how long do I exercise? (Never was one choice.)

·      Directions – We all know men never ask. At any age. And with a GPS who needs to know or ask anymore?

The hour concluded with an appointment scheduled for the second session.

And so I found myself on the college campus again, ready for another brain scan.

Except this time I was face to face with a professor testing my mental acuity (extra points for using impressive words!). For example…

·      The prof read a list of unrelated words and I repeated as many as I could in any order.

·      A list of numbers was supposed to be repeated in the same order as recited. I am really, really bad with numbers. Particularly remembering numbers. Especially my weight, but luckily that was not part of the test.
·      Remember the Sesame Street game – which one of these doesn’t belong? I was supposed to choose the puzzle piece that did belong; the next one in a sequential series.

And I had to draw. I have never been able to draw. I am artistically challenged.

Hopefully my artistic endeavors will not too negatively affect my test results.

Mind games are supposedly exercises for the brain. So I got a lot of exercise.

The prof could not tell me my test results, but assured me I did very well. What a relief. Really, that seriously is good to know.

The research program may involve follow-ups in the future.

Perhaps I should practice sequential puzzles.

Or work on my vocabulary.

Forget about attempting to improve my drawing skills; that will never happen.

Maybe next time I can sit in front of the computer screen, silent and completely still, for a longer period of time.

I bet I aced that part of the exam.


  1. Wow, that sounded a bit complex but interesting. I am like you on the falling asleep thing. I once fell asleep with my feet in the stirrups waiting for my gynecologist who was quite late.

  2. I have a feeling I would distract myself by wondering what each part of the test is supposed to measure, and how I'm doing, and whether these people are really qualified to interpret the results of a test like this, etc. I wonder whether you'll ever find out what they've concluded.