Thursday, March 16, 2006

ERROR: No signal

So this week I had my sleep study, and some rather interesting things were learned from it. I had two tests scheduled: one where they monitor my sleeping habits at night, and another where they monitor me as I take several 20 minute naps throught the day. I went in on Tuesday night at 9PM and got all wired up. It was rather...odd I guess. I had about 10 electrodes attached to various places on my head. 5 on the back in my head, two behind my hears, and a few on my face. I also had two placed on my legs to check if I have restless legs while sleeping. And then they placed two more on my chest as well to monitor breathing I think. I also had to wear two belts, one around my chest and another around my stomach. Finally, I had a "flo" device strapped around my face and put just below my nose to monitor whether I breathe through my nose or mouth, and I had another device (I forgot the name) taped to my finger tip to monitor blood oxygen levels. With all this stuff they could monitor my EEG, EKG, EMG, EOG, and maybe some more E*Gs too.

Anyway, so after I was all strapped up they had me lay down and attempted to callibrate the equipment. But surprisingly my EEG signal was incredibly weak, almost as if it wasn't there at all. At first they suspected a loose ground or reference wire ('ground' in a human is the bone by the way) but messing with that didn't help. Then they suspected it might be the computer of the room I was in, so they asked me to switch rooms. That still didn't help. Then they tried replacing the electrode box, the electrodes themselves, the wires, practically everything and *still* couldn't get an acceptable signal. They called "the big boss" trying to figure out what the heck was wrong, and after a while they moved me to a third room. After messing around a little, they finally got a signal out of me. Relieved, they started the calibration experiments (where I had to do things like look up and down, clench my teeth, move my legs, etc). During one of them my signal went dead again though. :( They scratched their heads and speculated that it would stabilize again after I layed down and tried to fall asleep, but after 10 minutes they still didn't have a signal at which point they said that we were going to have to re-schedule for another night. I got unwired and spent the night there since it was already 1AM at that point (and the beds were really comfortable). It took some scrubbing in the shower to get all of the electrode paste off of my hair though. They told me they thought it was some major equipment failure and apologized, and told me that nothing like this has ever happened before.

The next day (Wednesday) I got a call from "the big boss" who said that he went through and tested all of the equipment and computers and that everything should be working 100% now. So I agree to go in at 8PM that night to try again. After getting all wired up, the same problem occured (very weak signal on my EEG). They try everything they could again, switching rooms and everything and still couldn't figure out what was wrong. They asked me if I've had any surgery or any metal plates in my head, because I had so much artifact (read: noise) in my signals. I told them I didn't, but that I have had severe cranial trauma and brain damage back in 1996 (I was 14 at the time). After hearing that they tried removing my laptop from the room to see if that would help. Strangely enough, the signal did improve a little after it was moved to the opposite side of the facility (even though it was off!), but it still wasn't enough. They moved me back into my original room and attached an additional two electrodes to my forehead (as if I didn't already have enough). They finally got a signal after that, but it was strange. So they had to try attaching different wires to different sockets during the calibration experiments and finally got a solution. I had trouble falling asleep that night though and didn't sleep very well at all.

The next morning they woke me up at 7. Actually I was already up at that point and they could tell by my brain waves (is that cool or what!?). Then I started the next round of testing and they removed the two belts, the flow, and the blood-oxygen monitor thing. These tests consisted of having me stay awake for an hour and fourty minutes, then attempting to nap for 20 minutes. Even though I was pretty tired, I couldn't fully fall asleep during any of the 4 naps I took. At about 3:30 on Thursday (today) I finally finished all the tests, got unwired, and finally came back home.

So what did I learn out of all of this (about myself)? There were two interesting things:
1) I am extremely sensitive to electromagnetic devices. In fact, I also discovered that I can sense/hear certain devices when other people can't. I have a sixth sense! :D
2) My brain is wired "differently" than most humans. Fear my newly discovered power you mortals!

Despite that expereince sounding like a pain in the ass, it really wasn't that bad at all. I mean, I was laying in bed most of the time and got to watch TV during a lot of it (I overloaded on the History channel :D), and the people were really nice and friendly. There was one girl there who I really liked a lot. She was also an undergraduate at UT and we had a lot in common. She was the one who worked with me the most on the first night, and she was there the second night but I didn't get to talk to her as much as I would have liked to. She was super sweet though and also really smart. Not to mention she was very beautiful as well. :) I didn't properly get to say good-bye to hear the second night so I left her a note before I left this afternoon thanking her. I also left her my phone number because she told her she was apartment hunting and I told her I lived in a great place that was close to campus and affordable, but didn't tell her the details. But honestly, I left my number more for the reason of wanting to get to know her more, so I hope she calls. (She called me earlier yesterday before my study to ask if I setup an appointment and if I would be coming in that night). Mmm yeah. She's really nice. ^_^ Too bad this is real-life, because otherwise I might be able to e-pimp her. >_>


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