Daily Archives: December 30, 2010

She Says… Neuroscientist in Training

Boston is chock full of teaching hospitals and medical research facilities making huge strides towards curing and treating bajillions of diseases and cancers and syndromes and illnesses. It’s one of the reasons I love living here; people are doing some really important stuff. And although I’m not a scientist or doctor or specialist, I am happy to be able to do my part. Well, I guess in this case Owen was the one doing the work, but he couldn’t have done it without me 🙂

Last week Owen participated in a neurological research study at Children’s Hospital in Boston. This particular study looked at how infants process facial expressions of emotions and how their processing changes between 5 and 7 months of age. The hope is that the results will help them better understand brain and behavioral development during infancy. As a new mom who spent most of her college career as a psychology major, this topic is incredibly interesting to me. I believe the conclusions drawn from this particular study are going to be used as the control group in studies to identify and better understand autism markers in infants as well. Another hot topic for moms (and dads!).

Owen’s participation in this study had two parts. On one day he sat in my lap and looked at a computer screen that had images flashing on it. Some were faces with various emotions, and some were shapes and colors. There was a really cool camera that could tell exactly where his eyes were focusing on the screen, and I think the idea is that they will examine his “behavior” (i.e. where and when his eyes moved) as the images change. Pretty easy! Owen had a great time, because for once he was allowed to watch tv. Usually I turn it off when he starts looking at it.

The second day the task was similar (looking at a computer screen with various images), although this time he had to wear an EEG cap to record his brain activity while he watched the screen. Don’t worry; no crazy radiation or waves were going IN the cap, it was just passively recording what was going on INSIDE his little brain. Check out my little neuroscientist in training!

All in all he seemed to really enjoy it! If nothing else it was a good opportunity to get him out of the house and doing something special and out of the ordinary. They even let him choose a prize each time he came, so we scored two awesome toys. The researchers said he did a fantastic job and he got through all of the videos (each a few minutes long) without breaks or getting fussy. What a good little participant.

Now Owen can rest assured that he has done his part to further scientific advancement.