Thursday, January 20, 2011

more work at cal tech

About an hour ago, I came back home from The Emotions lab at Cal tech, run by neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs. I participated in some more experiments involving some questinonaires, this sort of experiment involving the Stroop effect where I have to name what a color is when a color word is put in a different color than the word. For example Greenaand having to chose the color red instead of the color green. They also had this eye tracking experiment where I had to wear a camera on my head that tracks eye movements, while I look at some faces and photos of scenery and decide which of two choices is the most attractive. I am not sure what the purpose of these experiments are and what they are trying to measure in autistic persons, but I am able to make $80 for an afternoon's work which is nice considering my financial situation is not as lucrative as it was four years ago or so. Of course some of the money is taken in the costs of gas in driving to Pasadena which is probably about 30 miles or more from where I live. I got to see post doctoral fellow Dan Kennedy again, and say hello to him. I first started participating about a year ago and I have written about my experiences doing this. The eye tracker was kind of a hassle because I had to wear this camera on top of my head while doing it, and it took them a long time to set up the calibrations for it, but they finally did it. Apparently this device is very "finnicky" as they put it and it takes a long time to set it up.

It was nice to be able to have something constructive to do for the good part of the day and some interaction with some persons as well as making some money. There is sort of an irony involved in all of these people rejecting me because of my autism, but there someone actually wants me because of my autism and wants to pay me some money for it. It is as close as I can get to having a job right now, though not quite the same I guess. Course I am enjoying retirement somewhat also.

Also, the Courchesne lab contacted me recently and wanted me to participate in this study they are now doing. I used to be a research subject with them but have not done so for a while now. I could have made a couple hundred dollars doing that but it involved driving down to San Diego (more than 120 miles each way) on at least two or more different occasions and having some testing and MRI scanning done as well as having a skin biopsy taken from my buttocks. I guess I was squeamish about the skin biopsy and at the time I was having some dermatologic problems with ringworm on my buttocks which has resolved. It is interesting in apparently the idea is that they can do some sort of stem cell thing where they turn skin cells into neurons and the autistic neurons may develop differently than normal controls. I can't help feeling a little guilty that my participating might have made the difference between curing (or at least making a major therapeutic breakthrough in autism) autism in a much shorter time. So at some point I may reconsider my participation in that study if it is not too late, but we shall see.

Another issue that concerns me is that they are only interested in high functioning autistics in a lot of these studies, at least at Cal Tech, as it involves compliance with the eye tracking device and being able to use a computer properly and reading the choices on the computer. I wish there was some way to do research on the lower functioning people so they could have a shot of a decent life and being able to talk and such, but so it goes.

I think Adolph's lab is still looking for research subjects 18 years of age and up with high functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome. They pay $20 an hour for various experiments and $50 an hour for undergoing an MRI scan. So if anyone is interested I guess they can contact the lab. I believe the number of the lab is included in the post that I linked to from last year. If it isn't I guess someone can post a comment to me or send me email and I can give them the number.



10 comments:

Oliver M Canby said...

It's great that you are helping out with science, Jonathan. I would do this too for the cash except that I do not have a driver's license so there would be no reasonable way for me to make it all the way out to Pasadena.

jonathan said...

Well, you might consider calling the lab and asking them if there is some way they could provide transportation. I am guessing they probably would not be able to, but i guess you could try. If it is possible you should consider learning how to drive and getting a driver's license. It won't be easy for you in los angeles area without being able to drive as you probably know already.

Oliver M Canby said...

I don't think they'd provide transport either. Driving is pretty much a necessity in LA, although it would be hard for me since I'm autistic. I suppose I could take the Metro Gold Line out to Pasadena, but even that would take a lot of time and effort.

jonathan said...

well it would not hurt to call them and ask them. The person you probably would want to discuss that with is Katherine Holcomb who is the administrator and coordinator of the research in the lab.

Also, they work on weekends to accommodate research subjects who work during the week. So, another option is you could ask your mom to give you a ride there on a saturday or a sunday and participate in the studies on one of those days.

Oliver M Canby said...

Maybe I should do that Jonathan. I already contacted one doctor, although it was about being a patient and not a research subject. The fact that it pays is really intriguing.

jonathan said...

Yes, there are various opportunities to be a paid research subject. The Courchesne lab pays also, but they are in San Diego which is even further. UCLA may have some opportunities also and i guess you could get there. I may look into seeing if i could make some money in a UCLA study myself.

Oliver M Canby said...

I think I should make money from a real job and not as a research subject. However, a little money is better than none at all. I just think my life is futile due to my autism.

JediKnight2 said...

Will you be mailed the results of the tests that were run on you? If so, could you post them on your blog?

BTW, I'm seeing a new speech-language pathologist on Monday. Wish me luck! :)

jonathan said...

No, they have a policy against giving feedback to research subjects.

Good luck with your new speech language pathologist.

JediKnight2 said...

Thanks.