06 April 2010

My Little Lab Rat



I'm a big fan of science. I majored in Exercise and Sport Science in college. I love to figure out how things work and I love to help other people figure things out. Usually that means scientific studies.

When I was a Senior at BYU-Hawaii one of my professors was doing a study on muscle strength. He was trying to figure out whether stretching increases muscle strength. To do this he needed to take muscle biopsies from the quadriceps and the calf muscles at the beginning of the study and then at the end as well. I agreed to be part of the study. Now to be fair I should say that I was bribed. He offered to raise one of our grades a whole letter grade if we participated. I figured I could use all the help I could get in Anatomy, Exercise Physiology or some other class (I can't remember now what other ones I had from him).

So they numbed up a part of my leg and took a bit of muscle to store on ice. (Me and a bunch of other students, of course) I stretched one leg for something like six weeks and wasn't allowed to stretch the other one or lift weights at all. I can't tell you whether I actually increased strength in my muscles by stretching but I can tell you that stretching like we had to, increased my range of motion on my right leg immensely! I know what most of you are thinking. Why the heck would she even think of doing something like that?? Well I told you I needed the help with my grades, but I also really like science and experiments and I thought it would be cool!

So it should come as no surprise to you that when I received a letter from UCSD shortly after Mr. Smiley was born about having him participate in research studies, I jumped on the opportunity. I got the same letter after Big Sister was born and signed her up, but nothing ever came of it.

This time he was called in, twice. He is participating in a study on Autism and one on memory in babies. The Autism one is pretty cool because they are trying to see if there is any sibling connection with Autism. Mr. Smiley is a control because he doesn't have a sibling with Autism, but he is matched with another little baby his same age who does. This study is supposed to last 3 years so they get to observe him periodically for quite some time. The other study about memory was much shorter. It was done through the Psychology department at UCSD and they are simply trying to analyze how babies remember things.

The first thing they did was give him a toy to play with at home for a month. Then at the last couple sessions they showed him a couple toys that were two-step toys. They demonstrated the toys and then a couple weeks later they observed him to see if he can remember how he can do them. One of the sessions we went to was the really fun session though. They put the little brain cap on him to measure his brain waves. They just use a little saline solution on each of those probes to act as a conductor and then measure what his brain was doing while they showed him certain pictures. (Nothing goes into his brain, they are just measuring what output there is) It was so cool to be a part of this study and of course see Mr. Smiley in his cute little cap.

He did so good and sat as still as he could as he was shown the pictures. He recently did one with the Autism study too but this cap was a little different. I can't find a picture of what it looks like on line and I didn't get one with Mr. Smiley wearing it but it had a lot more wires.

Some parents probably think I'm crazy for subjecting my son to research and observation but I'm so glad to help out where I can!

I've been really impressed with the Psychology research department at UCSD and hope to be able to see the results of these studies eventually.

11 comments:

Julie P said...

I think it's great you're doing that! And also way cool that your baby looks just like you!

Maile Fano said...

I SOOOOO remember that study and continue to wonder if my leg is still affected by the stretching. I would be the same kind of mother in letting my child be involved in a study. Props to you.

The Roz's said...

no way! i would totally do it too!

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

It's moms like you who are helping to unlock the mysteries that affect families like mine...thanks for your willingness and bravery!

The Potter Family said...

I think thats awesome. I almost applied for the PhD program at UCSD until I found out how much they get paid afterwards...thus the law school path. But I totally agree I love science - took a bunch of brain physiology and neuropsych classes. Good for you.

Susan M said...

I think it's awesome too. And what a cutie he is!

Cheryl said...

I let my oldest girls do some infant research at BYU years ago --for the same reason! It was harmless and for good things.

Mr. Smiley is so cute!

bythelbs said...

Cool--good for you!

Alison Wonderland said...

I'm right there with you. I've sold my body (or at least parts of it) and those of my children to medical research more than once.

Melissa said...

I think it's fantastic! We looked at an autism research thing at one time. Little Bug has a cousin that also has autism. They are less than a year apart in age and the study was looking for family members that they could observe and draw blood from to compare. Unfortunately, the cousin couldn't get down here and nothing ever came of it. But if the opportunity ever arose, and I knew it wouldn't freak the kids out too much, I would probably do it.

Maren said...

Absolutely fascinating! I'd probably do it too! :)