Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cognition Study

Sly has another bad cold. For the past two nights, he's slept next to me in bed. Basically, it's the same story as a few weeks ago (see post: First Illness). He keeps coughing, which startles him awake, and then he cries and won't fall back asleep. On Tuesday night, he was up about once every 20 minutes, but was easy to soothe back to sleep. Last night, he woke up only a handful of times, but was very difficult to calm down each time. He just cried and cried. So much so, that even Tom was woken up by it (!!!), and managed to be helpful in getting him back to sleep a few times.

Before Sly was born, I was sure that I would never let my baby sleep in the bed with me. Every baby book or website you read, and all the health professionals you talk to try to pound into your head that it's basically the MOST DANGEROUS THING EVER, and to consider it would be scandalous. Early on, we were really careful about it. Before he was sleeping through the night, we did the whole cradle right-next-to-the-bed deal. When he cried, I nursed or calmed him, then returned him to the cradle. But as I lost more and more sleep, I became less and less able to ensure that I stayed awake long enough to get him back into his own little bed. Soon, I found myself accidentally falling asleep while he was nursing. I guess it was really my fault,since I would just scoop him in next to me, never actually sitting up in the bed. When I would wake up a few hours later, there was my little baby, snuggled in next to me! Safe and sound.

So now when it makes sense to have Sly in the same bed, I don't worry about it. Having him next to me forces me to sleep on my side (I much prefer stomach sleeping). This way, I'm able to cradle him and protect him - either from rolling off the edge of the bed if he's on the outside, or from getting rolled on by Tom if he's on the inside. The ideal situation, of course, is having him in his own room. But when he's sick and waking up constantly, I just can't keep trekking back and forth all night.

Yesterday, Sly participated in a study at the Infant Cognition Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. I had seen a flyer at the library about how they need babies for different studies all the time, so I contacted them. It sounded like a potentially fun experience. I also had this vision of myself being able to tease him about it one day: "Hey son, when you were little, we put you into psychological studies. ha ha ha."

The whole thing was pretty quick and simple. The research student brought us into a little room, and put Velcro mittens onto Sly's hands. I was just supposed to keep him sitting in my lap the whole time, while the experiment was being filmed. The girl put out a tray with some Velcro balls on it. Sly had three minutes wherein he would be observed as he played with the balls. It was pretty amusing, though, because for at least the first two minutes, all he did was look at her and smile, and occasionally crane his head backwards to smile at me. I was silently giggling the whole time. Even though she really wasn't supposed to offer any "help," the researcher eventually pointed out the balls to Sly - I guess so that she could actually get some sort of useful data! Once he got the mittens hooked onto the balls, he just flailed his arms around, causing them to detach from the mittens and roll away. And then he sat there, happily chewing on the mittens. hehehe - I still giggle now, remembering it.

After the "playing" phase, she pulled a dark curtain around us and turned out the lights, making the only real focal point a video screen. She put on a five-minute cartoon of a little baby arm wearing a mitten and touching balls. It was really boring for me, but Sly seemed interested. Well, most of the time, anyways. I really don't know what the whole study was testing, but I do know that the purpose of this second phase was to measure how long he actually paid attention to the video. The research student was watching him in the camera, and clicking a button to record when he looked towards or away from the screen. And then it was over. Maybe ten minutes total.

I mostly signed him up for this because I thought it would be an interesting experience. I've read results and summaries from plenty of cognitive or developmental studies of babies and children, but I've never actually seen one carried out. If they asked us to come back for another one, I would definitely consider it. There was no monetary compensation for it. However, they did give us a free baby t-shirt.

The shirt is sort of dumb. I mean, being a scientist and being a subject in a scientific study are two very different things. But it's still cute, I suppose, and I expect he'll wear it once the weather turns more appropriate for t-shirts.

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