Tuesday, June 23, 2009

listening to you

When I was in the hospital with Alex, a woman came by from McMaster University who was involved with a study involving hearing and infants. Was I interested in participating? Sure. I filled out the form and forgot about it. Then last week, I received a phone call. They were looking for 5 month-olds to participate. It wouldn't be painful or intrusive. They would play sounds and measure the activity in Alex's brain. Sounded interesting, so I booked us in.

When we arrived, I was thrilled to find out that the research is music related. Dr. Laurel Trainor is Director of the Auditory Development Lab at McMaster University and head of the McMaster Institute for Music & the Mind. The study that Alex was a part of is one that gathers data on how infants perceive sound in order to understand how they develop the hearing skills to learn language and music. Since an infant can't tell you what they are hearing, they place a net of sponges on their heads that measure the brain's electrical activity. Pretty cool. So they rigged the little dude up. He actually giggled when they put it on his head. And he looked downright adorable.

Once the net was in place, Alex sat on my knee while two young students kept him entertained with toys, puppets, bubbles, and a DVD. All the while, short, rhythmic blasts of white noise came out of speakers all around the room. The hardest part for me was not tapping my foot to the rhythm since they asked me to keep him as still as possible. That and not talking. But we managed to get through 18 minutes of the 20 minutes they aim for. Once the little dude started fussing and crying a bit, the research assistant, Elaine, stopped the sounds. She was happy with the data collected so we didn't have to try again. Alex was presented with a little toy and a cute certificate (that included the above picture and the designation of "junior scientist") and we were done.

When Steve came home and I shared the experience with him, he thought it was cool that this kind of research was being done here, right in our backyard. I agree. And I'm glad that Alex was able to be a part of it.


Mary Lynn said...

That's so neat! Love the pic, too.

vivian said...

Thanks. I'm glad Alex didn't mind the cap on his head. He makes an excellent test subject. LOL

Pel said...

:D Awesome! Looks like he took to the testing happily enough!

vivian said...

He sure did.

Nice to have you back Pel. :)