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Feb 6 / Carrie Leach

Participating in Research: For the Grey or the Green

One of the responsibilities I have at the Institute of Gerontology is recruiting research participants.  Pipeline has been one of the most useful tools to date.  Thank goodness our WSU community is paying attention to these ads and helping us learn more about the brain by taking part!  While there are a plethora of advantages to participating in research, like…being exposed to the research process, advancing science, learning about how labs work, getting to view your own grey matter, some just do it for the money.

No matter, I decided to do some research about participating in research by volunteering to participate in a research study (that’s a lot of research).  Since I am between the ages of 18 and 90, right-handed, a native English speaker, and healthy (by their standards) it was decided that I was a good match.  I thought it a worthy cause to know what I’m asking other people to do, so I forewent the compensation and decided to be a guinea pig.  What I found were a few things I didn’t expect.

I’m an avid puzzler so I enjoyed several of the “tests,” especially for memory and problem solving.  After being challenged by researchers face-to-face and via a computer I left feeling little effect of what I was doing.

A few weeks later I met one of the research assistant’s from the Aging Brain lab, Yiqin, in the lobby of University Hospital for my MRI.  She escorted me through the hospital to the MRI room.  I was relieved to learn I would be escorted. I’ve spent a few maddening hours wandering my way through the tunnels of the Detroit Medical Center and surfaced what seems like miles from where I entered.

While I lay in the massive magnet I couldn’t help but think, this is how problems are solved.  This is how science challenges the status quo.  I wouldn’t be lying here if someone else somewhere else understood exactly how the brain changes with age and how those changes relate to memory and problem solving.  A unique altruistic feeling came over me while I lied motionless.  This is what I would share if people asked about participating in research, not what I went through, but how I contributed.  My own research about research yielded an unhypothesized conclusion, contributing to science feels good.  This is often how I perceive much of the work I do at the Institute of Gerontology: a contribution to the betterment of all.  Participating was a great refresher on why we do what we do at the IOG.

About an hour later, I exited the MRI room to gather my things and stopped to view images on a monitor as the supposed radiologist observed, “great news, we found one,” and pointed to images of my brain on the screen.

To confirm that you too have a brain or for more information about participating in our research please contact the Aging Brain lab @ (313) 664-2649 or visit

My brain  —>

Carrie Leach MRI

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