On Research Studies, PET Scans and Opiniated Contributors

New York is definitely a city in which you can accomplish the imaginable. It is also a city in which you can do many scientific things which broaden research and can be mentioned in text books.

Just two days ago Christina from Cornell University contacted me to do a follow-up evaluation of a research study I had been a part of two years ago. Way back then, as it happened to be, I had some free time on my hands, after quitting my full-time job at the awful bar and starting my first office employment in fall. So I decided to make the most use of my time here in Nueva York and scanned through an array of craigslist postings. From the usual “earn money by being a foot fetish model” to “nude pictures taken by sleezy aspiring photographer for less than 50 dollars” you could pretty much find every useless thing on craigslist. Craigslist is a site here in the US that offers many things starting from job/gigs over housing and dating to items on sale – you can find a ton of worthless extraordinary ads on here. But beware of the risks, as 70 percent of these bulletins could mean scam (see NYC Craigslist Ads and Other Scam Stories).

Of course craigslist can also offer some really interesting and challenging stuff, you just have to dig hard enough or be lucky. So it went with a research study I took part in August of 2010. After applying to a rather general ad in with participants were needed for neurological research, I received a rather detailed response back. I was invited to join the Neurological Institute of Columbia University on a Wednesday afternoon.

After making my way up to 168th Street and checking in, I was led down to the basement facilities of the school. Christina and her team greeted me and introduced themselves as students from Cornell University (a renowned college in upstate New York) who were working on their Master thesis. The focus of this study was emotions and stress, a very general but also inspiring topic, I find, with many nips and dashes to everyday usefulness. Being a former psychology student myself, I was immediately taken in by how these studies really work. Since I never had the chance to be a research participant when I had actually gone to school, I was honored to play a significant part in a study that involved such extensive measures as a pre-evaluation, a PET-scan, and a post-evaluation. Wohaa, this is what I had read about in my text books but now I was a proud piece of it all!

Altogether the study took 3 hours and it was paid $30 per participant (which is a good average for psychology studies). The evaluations both did not take much of my time and were fairly easy to conduct (computer and paper measures).

The PET scan, however, was an entire story by itself! A guy called Andrew explained to me what exactly I had to do once they shoved my entire body (feet dangling out) into it. I missed half of it because I was too nervous eyeing this suspicious-looking machine and imagining how it must feel to be stuck in there. Once he actually pushed me in, my phobia worsened. After only five minutes of flashing images and pushing buttons, I had to request to be taken out again. He did his very best in explaining how most people felt very uncomfortable in this environment and that I shouldn’t think about where I am but focus on the images.

A PET scan is a very narrow tube that restricts your body to stay in this one tight location while the doctors/researchers are taking MRI images of your brain. The device emphasizes positron emission of your body or rather head, meaning it makes it easy for neurologists to detect which parts of your brain are active during certain tasks. A great measure in this case, since stress was measured in relation to certain images flashed.

After overcoming or rather ignoring my initial fears, I managed to push buttons and see the pictures for a total of 45 minutes. I am not sure if this time frame is average for these types of studies but I do know that I wouldn’t wish anyone to stay in here for such an extended period of time. I was never entirely comfortable and I would still be anxious to be pushed into one nowadays. I did, however, have to congratulate myself for staying inside for such a long time – a feat never imagined!

After two years the same researcher contacted me again to have yet another post-evaluation taken (paid once again), this time by clicking on a link she provided. It seems that her project is getting somewhere and I wish her the very best for her future as a neuropsychologist and in finishing up her master studies.

Through the same web site, I had once been part of a criminal justice psych study. To date I am unsure as to what they were exactly looking for, but it involved getting into groups with other participants and discussing a fictitious case. The case described how a man had been shot after exiting a gas station up in Washington Heights and how eye witnesses had described the potential shooter. These research studies reimburse their partakers in a descent way. I cashed in another 25 dollars just for being filmed for voicing my opinion on this scenario and only spending one hour of my time at yet another university.

Then, of course, there was the study hosted by a Web organization. They asked me to come in for 15 minutes (15 dollars for this) to try out their Web site and give feedback. The homepage was a new design for shoppers and sellers (think EBay style, only more upscale). It seemed to be in its very raw stages and not much had been implemented except for some large buttons to push, at which one was directed to a total of ten different pages. The web design students were eager to get my opinion once I started my crude criticism and jotted down almost every word I said about how it could look more appealing. I am not sure how their other participants managed to take this study serious but I believe every opinion is helpful in this case.

And so the experiment cycle here in New York goes. Be aware of ads that require you to try out a new means of birth control. I once inquired on this one and received a call back from a nurse who wanted me to try out birth control based on injections. I was required to have sex on a regular basis and to not take any other means of contraception (condoms included). If I were to become pregnant despite taking this dubious means of contraception, then that meant it would have failed. They sorta lost my interest after uttering these last words and I made a point in asking them to delete my e-mail address.

Be also aware of ads that are only luring you into egg donation. And be especially aware of ads that want you to try out free anti-depressant medication after “extensive” evaluation of one day. Oh craigslist, how I love you sometimes!

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2 thoughts on “On Research Studies, PET Scans and Opiniated Contributors

  1. That’s cool that you were able to get paid to participate in some studies. I agree on avoid the birth control ones. The ones already on the market that aren’t always 100% effective are the biggest risk I’d be willing to take of one not working.

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