Thursday, May 02, 2013

She blinded me with science

BabyM loves Science
Shortly after each of my babies was born, I got a postcard in the mail from the University of Washington asking if we wanted to add them to a roster of experimental subjects for research studies.

This sounds weird and ominous, right?  But actually, it's pretty cool.  UW has some amazing research programs on humans - the kind of biology and neuroscience stuff I know nothing about. I was a molecular bio/biochem person in my previous life.

T only got called once when she was about 15 months old, for a study to determine when babies understand cause and effect. The study is mentioned here, but I can't find an actual reference for it. 

We went down to "the U" on a sunny day, and she got to play with some toys and watch some things light up.  The researcher would arrange a group of toys in a particular orientation and then see if she'd imitate him.  T was more interested in naming the objects - ladder, octopus, helicopter.  He was impressed by her verbal skills, and she wanted to play more when we were done.  She got a small toy elephant for her "work" and our parking was free.

Last week I got an email asking for babies to participate in a non-invasive hearing study.  BabyM and I went to our first of three sessions today, and it was the first time in YEARS I wandered around the University District.  I went to school at UW nearly 15 years ago, so I'm familiar with the area, but it's changed so much since then.  I don't remember it being quite so seedy-looking, to be honest, but maybe I'm just viewing it with my suburban mama filter now.

This study required BabyM to wear a tiny earpiece and listen to some (quiet) white noise, over which they'd play people speaking.  They were watching to see if she'd react when the sounds changed.  

Since she was sitting on my lap, they needed me to be "neutral" so I got to listen to music so I couldn't hear or influence her reaction - Mama is nothing but a piece of furniture in this experiment!.  I listened to half of U2's The Joshua Tree, and remembered what an AMAZING album it is. It was the first album I bought on CD, back in 1990.  Yeah, I'm old.

BabyM is happy and smiley when she's not tired or hungry so this morning went well and she charmed the (all-female!) staff at the lab.  We'll go back twice more next week and earn our $15 and free parking again (probably just enough to pay gas and the bridge toll!).

I like the idea of contributing to Science, and of course, the studies I agree to are totally safe for my girls.  I'm obviously not doing it for the money.  I do think it's good for babies to go out and meet new people and see different things. BabyM was fascinated by all the colorful photos on the walls at the lab, as the same building has a Speech and Hearing Clinic for kids.

I did decline the request for a 2-year study that required us to come in 6-8 times for a sleeping MRI, right around bedtime, for 1-2 hours each. I don't think MRIs are harmful, but wrangling a tired baby and trying to get her to fall asleep in an unfamiliar environment seemed like a recipe for stress.

But the easy studies during the day?  Sign us up!


  1. That's pretty cool! My younger daughter was part of study where they measured her physical activity and her fitness every year from the time she was in Grade 5 until she went into Grade 9. It was neat to see the results of what they found.

  2. That's so interesting to participate in things like this. ps. Joshua Tree is a GREAT album!

  3. There used to be a show about babies and the research done with them that was so fascinating! I don't remember what it was called but it was so cool!


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