A New Experience, A New Idea and A New Discovery.

Slightly following the theme of money advice blog posts; today I experienced something new in exchange for money and helping students at my university. For my past couple of lectures we have been directed to a different building, had this not have happen I would not have seen the many experiments taking place at university and the students’ plea for participants. Many of them had varying degrees of compensation for the participants time, so of course I applied to some of them! I had never been a research participant for anything other than focus groups so this was really exciting, but it was titled “Pain and the Brain.”

At 11.30 this morning I headed to the same building that my lectures had been taking place to meet the person running the study. I read through the details of what was to come and we embarked upon conversation as she set up the equipment; starting with cleaning my scalp, fitting on a cap to secure electrodes and then meticulously applying gel through the holes in my cap to my scalp. This was all very reminiscent of hair highlighting caps but in fact a lot less painful; there were no metal hooks being poked around or bits of plastic to break through first!

After some time I was shown through to a room similar to a small sound recording booth and sat in front of a screen, a keyboard and the electrodes were attached to my cap and the machine that was to do the readings. I then went through around 5 minutes of relaxation so that the student could get a base reading from my brain. After this a TENS machine was attached to my right hand and I went through a tolerance test to see what levels of pain I could take rated on a scale of 1-10. Once I found a pain level around 7 (just about bearable) the test was repeated to get an average; I would not experience pain higher than what I set as a number 7. Once all of the preparation had finished the test began! I had to relax the muscles in my face whilst the screen in front of me showed what level of pain it was going to give me (first 30 rounds of high and after a break later 60 rounds of low) and only when the rating indicator came up on the screen could I move and then input a number that I felt corresponded to level of pain I had just received. This repeated throughout the session interrupted by filling out a quick form at various points asking if I was calm, was the pain unpleasant etc and also a ten minute break.

I struggled to concentrate at various points due to the room being dark, the suspense and the changing images on the screen but I never felt wholly uncomfortable. I am a wimp when it comes to pain (despite all of my tattoos, I strangely, don’t like to get hurt!) but the environment was comfortable and I knew that I was only getting an electric impulse to the back of my hand. I experienced that my pain threshold fluctuated greatly in a matter of seconds; not only increased but decreased at times too which I didn’t think was possible. It was fascinating being a part of this research. I got to wash the gel out of my hair in the laboratory’s facilities, got paid my £20 and went on my way to my class.

If you are interested in research or just want a couple of hours helping someone and having a conversation then please get in touch with universities! This was only one project and they still needed 40 more participants to fulfil the quota; so if you are not in a position to reach the adverts for these then do get in touch with the universities. They are so appreciative as it helps them, you get a little compensation and you never know you may be a part of something that is groundbreaking.

Here lies another blog post not entered around money but it does have its benefits and it may be something that you have never thought about doing before!

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