Tuesday, January 25, 2011

guinea pig, the beginning

I went over to Hopkins Bayview today to participate in a screening for a research study. I parked in the wrong lot, got horribly twisted around trying to find the building, and finally had to call for directions. I was about 10 minutes late.

The coordinator/assistant for the study was very nice, very friendly and outgoing. We chatted as I filled out the requisite permissions, acknowledgments of rights, and medical forms. I took psych inventories, where you check yes or no for each statement listed. Most were pretty run of the mill, but it included "my tv or radio has secret messages for me" and "before the age of 15, I tortured small animals"... I had 5 tubes of blood taken, had an EKG, and a short physical. I got measured (I'm 5ft 4 and a HALF inches), weighed (her scale is more forgiving than mine, only 142 in her office), blood pressure (120/80 on the nose), had my reflexes checked, etc.

I met with a psychologist, who asked tons of questions about my family, my moods, was I ever traumatized, etc.

Then I did a couple of computer games. In one, I clicked Cooperate or Defect, and the computer also picks cooperate or defect. Depending how my answers matched up with the computer, I "earned" $5 to $25 of fake game money for each answer. There were patterns, and then the patterns would change, etc.

The second game was much longer, and more frustrating. I had to click the mouse if a long line was displayed on screen, not click if it was short. The line would appear and then quickly get masked with a distracting pattern. I had a very hard time not clicking on the short lines. No score, or any way to really know how you did, or whether there was even a point to the game.

If my bloodwork comes back ok, and I passed the tests, I will meet once a week either individually or in a group (two randomized study cohorts), and learn meditation and guided imagery techniques. I will be asked to keep a daily journal, meditate 10-30 minutes every day and do some mindfulness exercises daily as well. I will have two supervised trips with psylocybin. During these, I will have a guide/facilitator on hand as well as medical supervision.

The whole study is 6-8 months long. It is an uncompensated study -- they pay for my parking, but that's it. In a previous version of the study, 25 of 28 participants said it had been life-altering in a positive way. They reported less stress, more compassion and a pervasive sense of well-being.

I think it is worth it, solely for the structure it will give to my meditation practice. Hopefully, it will provide me with the skills to continue the practice on my own.

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