So today was the day I got to be a geeky guinea pig!
I arrived bright and early at the University research area ready for my exciting day. Initially that was blood pressure readings, blood samples, height, weight and body fat analysis (yep – that wasn’t the best reading, but I hoped my stats would improve as the day went on!)
Then I had to complete a questionnaire about how I felt / feel about certain things – pretty bog standard questions that you might get in a survey in Cosmopolitan magazine – although there were less (although not none!) about sex, and some were a bit weirder. The weirdest being ‘for each of your children (and there was enough space for 4 kids, which is quite rare!) do you get on with them worse than average, average or better than average?! Totally unsure how you benchmark such a thing against other people?!?
Then started the memory and IQ tests. This was like some weird Krypton Factor (or The Cube if you’re under 40) / Tap the Frog / 11+ exam hybrid. Lots involved shapes and sequences and patterns which, in places, I found REALLY HARD – but I think I made up for it by bossing the numbers and words. Although in places that was really tricky too. There was a list of about 20 different word pairs – some related to each other, and some not. The researcher read them all out to me – and then went back and asked me to name the second word for each first word. I was RUBBISH. I couldn’t believe I was so rubbish to be honest! But we had to repeat the thing – with the same words – four times. Third time I got one wrong, and fourth time I got a full house – BOOM! Lots of the tests were talking to the researcher, some were written, some involved cubes (my eldest’s pet hate when doing her non verbal reasoning for the 11+) and then some was on an electronic tablet.
This was the particular bit that felt like Tap the Frog – just without any frogs! It was incredibly intense and lots of the tests were clearly designed to scramble your brain (I described it as a headf*ck to the researcher – and she neither confirmed nor denied that that was the technical term!!!)
After that – and a quick sandwich lunch – we were over to the old hospital campus next door for an MRI. Whilst I’d had one of these on my knee before, I’d never actually been totally inside the tube – and people told me it was VERY claustrophobic and noisy. I had to remove anything metal (apart from my underwired bra – apparently those are fine!), lay down on the bench, put in ear plugs and on headphones and was slowly wheeled into the tube. I’d been warned to bring my own music as the music the university have isn’t the best – so 80s love songs it was! There were then about 6 different MRIs. These all had slightly different noises – there was one like the photocopier was persistently jammed, one that sounded as if you were in the spin cycle of a tumble drier, one that sounded like someone was using a pneumatic drill to get into the machine, and other banging noises. However, I still managed to fall asleep!! After each 5 or 10 minute MRI the lady doing the scans would talk to me / wake me up. For most of them I was allowed to close my eyes – but for one of them I was told I had to keep my eyes open and think about nothing!!
Of course, when you’re told to think about nothing you brain, which is used to juggling kids / home / work / organising charity events / planning a Florida trip for 12, immediately starts thinking of stuff.
So I tried to imagine nothing…….
- An empty room – what colour is it? Why is it empty? Are there any windows?
- An open field – what’s over the horizon? What crop is growing? Are there any cows?
- A blue sky – are those clouds? Ooh, it’s like the Philadelphia advert!
Right Libby – visualising ‘nothing’ isn’t helping you think of nothing, so just focus on the inside of the MRI scanner……
- Hmm, what’s the scuff mark?
- Did someone with a big head scrape it on the side?
- And why does that look like there was tape on there before that’s been pulled off and left a residue?
- Why would you hold an MRI scanner together with tape?
Right Libby – focusing on the inside of the scanner isn’t working. Blur your vision and don’t think of anything.
- Hmm – why don’t I do some pelvic floor excercises rather than waste time?
- Wonder if that will show in brain movement?
So all in all – I’m not very good at thinking about nothing!!!
It’s been a great day – I’m exhausted but really enjoyed it (I am such a geek!) I don’t know my results (which is tricky for a control freak) but hopefully should get some feedback in the Autumn.
And if anyone in the Birmingham area would like to take part – they’re still looking for volunteers!!