Should I be a guinea-pig?
November 29, 2005 1:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about signing up to be a test subject for an EEG experiment in the psychology department at my university. Is there anything I need to know?

I'd be paid £15 for 2 hours, and the only info I have about it is that the eligibility requirements are: "Must be first language english, right-handed, aged 18-30, and taking no anxiety/depression/epilepsy medication." Any hilarious anecdotes/insider knowledge you'd like to offer?
posted by Lotto to Science & Nature (15 answers total)
EEG's are usually kinda messy - there's gook that gets in your hair that helps conduct the electricity they're reading through the electrodes.

other than that, they're good times.
well, comparatively speaking - they don't hurt or feel weird or claustrophobic or anything, in my experience.
posted by mdn at 1:58 PM on November 29, 2005

You didn't mention whether the research involves sleep experiments or not, so this anecdote may or may not be useful. But when researchers were doing sleep experiments and monitoring EEG and REM activity, they roused dreamers and found that the dreams tended to have robot and technology themes, presumably from all the wires.
posted by rolypolyman at 2:06 PM on November 29, 2005

You'll need to be patient (or have some good reading material with you) just for the cap fitting--usually takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on the number of electrodes used.
posted by availablelight at 2:15 PM on November 29, 2005

My mom's an EEG tech. I think the goop that goes in your hair is the foremost thing to remember. I think it's decidedly less goopy and gross than it used to be, though. They will probably tell you to lay very still but not to sleep, which may or may not be difficult to you.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:02 PM on November 29, 2005

I've done worse (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and if it's anything like the UK you won't be able to get into any trouble even if you want to. At the first sign of a headache I was paid the full amount and told I could not continue.

There's nothing to worry about. Ethics boards make sure of that.
posted by edd at 4:00 PM on November 29, 2005

Any time you're involved in research, it's a good idea to ask who is funding the research. And (this one learned from experience), if you get some sort of vague answer, press for who funds them.

So my story is that I did a psych study involving a couple of hours in an MRI machine, for $300. The research was conducted through the psych department at a reputable university with the MRI being done at a reputable hospital. They said the study was about emotions. I did ask who funded it and was told it was some research centre. I left it at that.

The experiment starts when they give me a giant bottle of tylenol, 500 pills or something. They ask me how much I would sell the bottle for. Then they put me in the MRI machine and while it's running, I get to watch Tylenol commercials. I watch a bunch of tylenol commercials. Then when that's finished, they ask me again how much I would sell the bottle of tylenol for and tell me that they're going to randomy draw a number and if it's above my price I get the money, below the price I get the Tylenol. So I name the same price (the price I arrived at by figuring the cost of that many generic acetemenophen pills) and they buy my bottle from me.

So this is all very suspicious. So I say "Who funds this research again?" Some centre's name listed again. Then the key question "And who funds them?" The answer was something like "a group of private companies"...anyway, I kept pushing and it seems that the purpose of the research was to understand how to trigger your emotions with commercials to get you to buy stuff.

They radiated my brain for that.
posted by duck at 4:28 PM on November 29, 2005

I worked for a couple of years at a lab that tested a brain/computer interface via EEG - this was targeted towards paralylzed people, but they needed all kinds of subjects for testing. It's not going to hurt your brain in any way. Most places will furnish you with a place to wash your hair after testing because it will have all the goop involved.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 5:03 PM on November 29, 2005

They radiated my brain for that.

Well, you consented to it and were paid pretty well, IMHO. I'd have done it -- easy $300. I'd probably take £15 for 2 hours too...
posted by SuperNova at 5:51 PM on November 29, 2005

Consented, yes. Informed consent, not quite.

This was a presented as a psych department study, and because of that and because of the way the research was presented to me by the researcher, I was led to believe that this was pure research. I consented to the time, and risk and unpleasantness (they don't pay $300 just for kicks, they pay that much because it is unpleasant and it's not risk free) for what I thought was the advancement of academic knowledge. I did not consent to be radiated so Tylenol could make more money.

Maybe you might have consented to do this for $300 to help tylenol make more money, and that's your right and a completely understandable thing to do. But you do have the right to make that decision with accurate information about the nature of the research.
posted by duck at 6:07 PM on November 29, 2005

They radiated my brain for that.

Well, it was MRI, so no, they didn't.
posted by kindall at 6:36 PM on November 29, 2005

EEGs are unscary. Even the goop isn't bad; my hair is past my shoulders, and although I was told to bring a baseball cap for after the EEG, I didn't need it at all. My hair wasn't immaculate, but I could've gone anywhere with it; they certainly didn't plaster on the goop.

I needed to keep my eyes perfectly closed for mine. YMMV depending on what parts of your branemeats they'll be looking at.

Anyway, it sounds interesting and it shouldn't be scary at all, so you should go for it. Especially since they're paying you.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:04 PM on November 29, 2005

Sorry, duck, I guess I read and typed too fast and didn't really grasp the situation and your objection. I'd probably still have done it, but I can definitely understand your objection, and think it's good advice for Lotto to take so she can truly weigh her options.
Now back to your regular programming...
posted by SuperNova at 11:02 PM on November 29, 2005

Sometimes the application of the goop can hurt a bit depending on if they are inserting the goop into each electrode specifically or not. I was an EEG tech in my psych research undergrad days and I really hated getting the EEGs myself (but didn't mind preparing people). Bothersome really but I neat process if you're fond of that sort of thing. Can be time consuming.
posted by rlef98 at 12:03 AM on November 30, 2005

Well, it was MRI, so no, they didn't.

Actually, MRI does involve radiating the brain. The frequencies are in the microwave (radio frequency) spectrum, though; when we talk about 'radiating someone's brain' we usually mean ionizing radiation in the X-ray or gamma ray frequency range. That is the kind that causes cell damage. The RF frequency radiation used in MRI doesn't seem to cause any cell damage.

EEG is even more benign. Ever seen a volt-meter? Well, an EEG is a lot of voltmeters, pasted onto your scalp, and the outputs read out digitally over time. Your brain creates electric fields which oscillate over time over a range of about 100 millivolts, give or take; the EEG records these voltage potential fields in different points in space. Then some dorky guy in glasses looks at the recording, or else a computer analyzes it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:30 AM on November 30, 2005

Wow, I just read more about MRIs and I didn't realize they do indeed use microwaves. Huh. Thought it was just very strong magnets.
posted by kindall at 12:06 PM on December 4, 2005

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