Healthy & Sixty?

My grandfather advocated doing no more than one thing a day. When there was nothing on the agenda he declared it a dies non (a day on which no legal business can be done, or which does not count for legal purposes). Robert calls it “having a quiet day at home”.

On Wednesday I broke my grandfather’s rule. In the morning I took part in a research study being conducted by Imperial College at Charing Cross Hospital. In a nutshell it was to explore “the inter-relations between, memory, emotion and visual attention: Neuroimaging and Neuropsychology.” I read about the study on the notice board at the Charing Cross pool, where I occasionally swim, and volunteered.

I read psychology at Durham and thought it might be the basis for a post. It was in the “brain lab” on the 12th floor. I was put in front of a Lenovo computer – I bought one of them a few years ago, it was cheap and useless – and was distracted by a red packet of Digestive biscuits by the keyboard. Remembering the Fat Girl in Prison experiment I smelt a rat. Afterwards the doctor said that it was there inadvertently but she would remove it in future. For fifteen minutes I looked at thirty-five pictures of objects. Then I was interviewed for thirty minutes about nine memories. The first three had to be before I was twelve, the next three more than a year ago but less than six years ago and finally three in the last year. There was guidance about the sort of incident required. It was rather draining. I chose the horror of my arrival at boarding school aged eight, but was disappointed not to be able to remember as much as I hoped. I invented a few visual memories to improve the story. The doctor was unware that bloggers write a blend of fact and fiction.

By now I had completely forgotten the pictures, part of the experiment I think. I was shown them again in a different order and had to say whether they were the same or different. I got 27/35 correct, so eight wrong. She told me that the first stage of this study was with young volunteers, mostly medical students in their early twenties. The next stage, after my batch, would be people who have had strokes. She was surprised that both the first two age groups got between five and fifteen wrong in the test, with little difference between age groups. Of course I wanted to do a re-take but that’s not allowed.

The second activity of the day was to go to John Sandoe in Chelsea to buy the book about Michael Kidson, more about this another day, and on to Saatchi Gallery Mess to meet my new broker for lunch. He was an excellent guest and I a poor host. Inexcusably I forgot to offer him either a glass of port or a digestif after lunch. I hope he didn’t notice my faux pas, or fox paws as my grandfather said. Possibly not as, after a glass of champagne, we had four bottles of wine. Thursday was a dies non.

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