The weird thing about EEG studies is that you can do data cleaning throughout the entire process of data collection but you really can’t tell what your results are until all the data is collected. So other than saying “this person didn’t respond to five of the stimuli” or “hmm, his brainwaves are nice,” there’s a lot of hours of doing work with zero knowledge of whether it will pay off. Granted, many of those hours involve sitting and waiting. Or else waiting, pressing a key or typing a word, and waiting some more. I’ve become quite good at Soduku and have finished watching all 160 episodes of How I Met Your Mother (I started in July) available on Netflix.
It’s been over a month since my last post and not much has changed. Oh, except that I’ve run about a third of my participants, begun cleaning and analyzing data, and set goals for where I want to take this project and even what I plan on doing next summer. Despite the fact that many other summer researchers are wrapping up their projects, I’m only getting started, so this blog post will be about what I did in July and I’ll add one more post right before the Summer Research Symposium to wrap it all up. Hopefully by the end of September I’ll have run all my participants and can finally stop being so vague about what I’m doing locked in the ISC all day!
If you’ve ever participated in an EEG study, you know it involves having a bizarre metal cap put on your head and then syringes filled with gel poking your scalp, covering it with a sticky mess. I feel bad for everyone who has ever participated in an EEG study and for everyone who will in the future (including my participants). Thankfully, EEG tells researchers all sorts of information about cognitive processing that they couldn’t know otherwise—information that lets us further understand how the brain works and how humans think.
As anyone who’s done a research project knows, research doesn’t begin at the data collection. A chemist doesn’t just put a chemical in a beaker and watch it turn blue, and an archaeologist doesn’t start digging haphazardly hoping something comes up. A foundation has to be laid of other researchers’ related findings, ideas of what you hope to find and what that means for the subject area at large, and finally, a plan of how exactly you plan to execute your research. Because of this, in the weeks before finals and my return to campus, I read hundreds of pages of recent studies and filled the margins with ideas and questions. I was excited because though many people were interested in what I’m studying, no one has performed the exact experiment I had proposed to the Charles Center (which means the findings will hopefully be filled with new information).