Thursday, October 4, 2012

Motion sickness mayhem

Volunteers are always needed for one study or another around here.  Did I write about the swim study that I inquired about?  Participants had to swim for 20 minutes, on three separate occasions, in water at  different temperatures so that researchers could gauge changes in internal body temperature.  This sounded innocent enough. The primary investigator called me to explain the method for measuring internal body temperature: a rectal thermometer. Hmmm...  Yet, what really made me squeamish wasn't the fact that I would implant a small device where-the-sun-don't-shine for all three swims.  Instead, I was rather put off by the fact they'd poke me in the arm before and after each swim to collect blood samples.  Ick!

I just got lightheaded typing out "blood samples".

Participants were compensated for their time and *ahem* discomfort by getting entered into a lottery draw.  Not even the chance to win $1,000 could entice me to participate.  If I'm going to faint in the name of science, which was rather likely (I'm not kidding; my medical chart has a note that I have to lay down when having blood drawn due to a history of getting a little caught up in the moment), I have to be guaranteed a little something-something.

So, I was particularly happy to sign up for a motion sickness study because I'd get to eat something that wasn't foul (like in the milk tasting study) and I'd get $50 unconditionally. Wahoo!

After I walked through the door, the first order of business was measuring a few things: my eyesight, perception, and whatever is measured by me shaking my head left to right while looking at a screen for a flashing "E" and then verbalizing which direction it was facing.  Yeah... 

That last test bordered on being being extremely annoying for all involved.  During the test, I wore a contraption on my head that tracked my head movement.  My job was to shake my head just enough for a blue dot to hit a vertical line on the left side of the screen and then a vertical line on the right side of the screen.  I did this part like a rock star!  Things got trickier when I had to move my head at particular speeds.  So, I was given directions to move my head slowly while getting the blue ball to touch the line on the left and then the line on the right.  Then, I practiced at faster speeds.  I was okay at adjusting my head speed based one how fast they told me to go; all I had to do was move my head quick enough for a bar under the two vertical lines to flash green - this told me I was moving quick enough.  Then, they had me practice moving my head at particular speeds while looking for the "E" that quickly flashed on the screen. Afterwards, I had to tell them which direction it was facing.  A little problem occurred when I wasn't moving my head fast enough: I often slowed my head movement in anticipation of the flashing "E" and this would result in an error message that lead to repeating the test over... and over... and over... and over.  When I didn't fail this little part of the test the "E" would flash, but I often was so caught up in what I was doing with my head that I forgot to pay attention to the "E"!


Next, I was strapped into a chair that spun around at one revolution every two seconds.  After 30 seconds, they turned on a metronome that I had to tilt my head in rhythm to its sound (I think I tilted my head to the left and to the right for each second - the pace the metronome was set). At one minute intervals I was asked to rate my nausea on a scale of 0-100. I was feeling it on a scale of 0-10 for the first four minutes and then it jumped up to a 40 for the last minute.  It got hella worse when they stopped the chair!

After that, I went back in for the shakey head/blue ball test.  I improved!  All those years playing team sports...I never realized I needed to be just a little bit dizzy to improve my accuracy! To think, I could have been a lacrosse All Star if I had just spun around a few times before each game.

Following that round of testing, I ingested a delightful piece of ginger slice.  It was a moist bar that I expected to taste like crap, but it did not.  After 30 minutes I was strapped back in the chair, then repeated the shakey head/ blue ball test, and then rested for another 30 minutes for observation.  The nausea definitely picked up momentum after the second ride in the chair, but I didn't get to the point of being sick. In fact, I am happy to boast that the research assistant told me I was "incredible" when it came to conquering the Rotating Chair of Doom.

I'm not convinced that the ginger slice affected my motion sickness or lack thereof.  But, I am convinced that this study was an easy way to become $50 richer.  Yay!  

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