14th March, 2012
It´s been a month since I last wrote. It´s been filled with data collection. So what do we do in data collection? We have a bunch of forms and questionnaires we ask the participant to fill out about how much they slept last night, their recent coffee intake, sleep, food, whether they drank or smoked for the past day. We ask them to fill out personality questionnaires, depression inventory, consent forms and information about their bank account so that we can pay them for their time.
Then they are asked to wash their hair in a largish sink. Our taps are a bit fancy- the water can come out like a shower and can be pulled out like a hand shower. Then they have to dry it completely with a hair dryer. We put a sheet around them to prevent their clothes from getting dirty and measure the circumference of their head at the wide point. We go get the appropriate EEG cap size from the Styrofoam heads and fit it onto their heads. We make sure that the Cz electrode is exactly in the middle of the head and it is symmetrical.
While my ‘assistant’ places a reference electrode carefully on the subject´s nose and another under their eye (for detecting eye blinks), I start rubbing the scalp through the electrodes with a cotton tip soaked in alcohol. She joins me when she is done to work on the other side of the head. After all 96 electrodes are thus rubbed with alcohol, we fill them slightly with Ag (silver) abrasive gel and rub the gel in too. These two steps are to remove dead skin and make contact with the skin. Then we fill all 96 channels with gel to make contact between the electrode and the scalp and take them to the lab with us.
There, my assistant fits the EKG electrode on their back (like is done during combined EEG fMRI) and we connect the cap to the amplifiers (which are connected to powerful batteries, recharged after every few uses). We check the impedance of each electrode and make corrections where necessary. Then we fix their fingers with GSR electrodes to measure skin response. She then instructs them (in German) on the task and gets them water or a blanket if they need it. Meanwhile I set up the experiment to be presented on the computer and pull up the data recording software to the right workspace. We show the participant a practice block and then start the real thing. It runs for an hour- 8 blocks and a rest condition in the end.
The whole session takes around 2 and a half to 3 hours per subject. The maximum recordings in a day is 3, starting at 8:30am. Today is such a day.
Apart from this I also wrote an exam on Neurocognition last Friday. Spent a lot of time studying, like I used to what feels like a long time ago. It went well enough. The social activity slowed down during preparation time but never really stopped. Movie nights, music evenings, cooking for friends, being called out for drinks… doesn´t really stop. One night a few weeks ago, I went out clubbing but the music was horrible. I stayed long enough to spend some time with my slightly inebriated friends then left. Because I had been to a music student concert just before that, I had been standing in my boots for a long time and my feet were sore. Those boots are NOT made for walking so I decided to take a cab home. Oh, I felt so grown up! Like the adults I see in movies who just get in a cab by themselves and go all over the city. I just went home though.
Notable movies I have watched lately; Vanilla Sky, Mr Nobody, Limitless, Eyes wide shut, Little Children, Shutter Island. I recommend only Mr Nobody to everyone. You need to be in a certain mood for the others… and they can be quite disturbing!
I’ve also been watching occasional DS9, How I met your Mother and Grey´s anatomy. Also been reading ebooks and blogging regularly /2012/03/13/frames-of-reference/. Crossed 15000 views two days ago 🙂
In my flat, Lea is in South Africa totally enjoying life, Andreas and Katrin found a place to move out to, Dirk built a new entertainment system last weekend, Felix is back in his hometown for his holidays, Sarah, the girl who is taking Lea´s room for when she is away quietly hangs out and joins us when we do something together.
To stimulate myself intellectually I have been watching this lecture series. I was hooked from lecture 1! Robert Sapolsky presents the biology of human behaviour in a very interesting way. I suggest you try a few, starting from the first one.
I think they should also be shown in schools too. Stanford had made them downloadable (under Creative Commons) which is so cool of them I think! 🙂
I’ve also been watching TED talks which are shorter, and trying to participate in an online course on Model thinking also run by Stanford, with a add on group in Bangalore.
So in the next two weeks my data collection should be finished and I should´ve written some good scripts for analysis. And started studying for the stats exam in April.
I am COMING HOME in the end of APRIL!!
I fly out on 28th, land on 29th morning and stay till June 5th morning. I hope to be more organised with this visit and meet as many people as possible.
Alrighty then, that´s it from me for now. Hope all is well with you all.
Love and hugs