We're a little crazy, about science!

Experimental limits

Well this is turning into a drama, but we keep having issues with the experiment. There are once again changes that need to be made, we’re four out of ten planned experiments into the project and while we’ve done the first four the same way, we keep trying to adjust our testing to a slightly different version of the protocol and it’s running into… issues to say the least. There are some things we just can’t accomplish using our testing paradigm and we have to accept that, but we still try to push those limits, even if it hurts.

So awhile back we had a simple, but interesting question we wanted to answer. We thought about it and came up with an experiment that would answer that question (here). Months of thinking and planning were ruined in a matter of minutes when we realized that the experiment just wouldn’t work (here). It was a good lesson and helped me realize that I had, in fact, learned things while I have been working in the lab. Then the other day I had a realization that the solution I came up with was good, but wasn’t the best, I had a different way of doing the experiment and my Co-PI agreed that it was the better choice (here). Yesterday, after that post we set out to test the new experiment with our next subject and it was a complete failure.

The issue was pain, electrical stimulation when done at certain levels of intensity or with certain characteristics (frequency, pulse width, etc.) can be quite painful. What I didn’t realize was just how painful the changes would make the protocol we were using. Keep in mind my initial setup has been basically painless, I’ve had participants fall asleep while we were doing the testing it was so painless. Sometimes there is a mild level of discomfort with our experiments, but we try to avoid hurting anyone.

This was so bad we had to change the site of stimulation because the skin had become too sensitive to the stimulation. I had never seen anything like it and when we got the stimulation level to a tolerable point, and by tolerable I mean just barely, we had cut it down almost 8x lower than what we had been using with my first setup. Needless to say, we couldn’t continue using that protocol so I went back and did the experiment using our original setup and everything went smoothly.

After an email exchange with my Co-PI… who mind you SHOULD be on vacation right now. He doesn’t read my blog so I can complain about him not actually taking time off, not that I don’t complain about that to him directly. Anyway, he gave some suggestions to make the stimulation more tolerable using the new setup and said that he still thinks it would be a better way to do the experiment. I agreed, so we’re giving that a shot today and hopefully get some better results. Worst case, we have to revert back to the way I came up with originally.

Both experiments are good, it’s just the second one is closer to the thing we want to test. It’s just a matter of making sure our participants are comfortable while the experiment goes on. I’m hopeful that with the adjustments we can get this solved, but if not there’s always a backup and really that’s all that matters.

With that, it’s time to go see if our changes have any positive effects. Luckily the subject is one of the people in the lab, so we can play around with it some without worrying about running out of time to do the experiment.


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