The Science of Sustainability

Science Event Pick: Experimenting with Yourself

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David experimenting with EEGLoyal KQED blog followers have been reading of Dr. Barry Starr’s experience getting his genes tested by 23andMe. He has tested his native American ancestry and evaluated his risk for diabetes. What if Barry took even more tests, from blood toxins to more genetic tests – would that result in a clearer picture of his health? That’s exactly the premise behind David Ewing Duncan’s new book: “The Experimental Man”.

David takes “guinea pig” journalism to super size me heights. He was tested by numerous genetic sequencing companies, had dozens of brain scans, gave gallons of blood for toxicity tests, even had a virtual colonoscopy to understand what “personalized” medicine means for him. His experimentation was divided into 4 categories: genetics, environment, brain, and body.

My favorite experiment was a memory test in which David and I both participated. The study was on how normal aging changes the neural mechanisms of memory and attention; a study run by Dr. Adam Gazzaley of UCSF. His lab uses a combination of techniques including fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging -measures blood flow using a big magnet), EEG (electroencephalography – measures electrical signals in the brain), and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation – using a magnet to “scramble” regions of the brain).

In this experiment, I was getting an EEG, designed to measure electrical signals of the brain, in this case studying regions controlling memory and attention. I was fitted with a stylish red cap, my head was covered with a conductive gel, and I was seated a few feet from a computer screen. After some careful measurements of my head, I was ready to go.

I was shown either a face or nature scene for a split second, then the screen went blank, then I was shown another face or nature scene. My task was to decide whether the two pictures were the same. Sounds exceedingly simple, but it was far from it. I left absolutely exhausted after just a few hours!

However, my results were excellent. I averaged about 95% correct over 3 hours. According to the researchers, that’s slightly better than the average 18-35 year old. David’s results were about the same, but he is more enthusiastic considering he’s closer to 50. Take a simpler version of a brain age test online.

The Experimental Man with David Ewing Duncan

Where: Atlas Cafe, 3049 20th St @ Alabama St.

When: Monday, October 19th 7-9 PM

Cost: FREE

Details: David Ewing Duncan discusses his new book “The Experimental Man”, his book exploring what cutting-edge technologies in personalized medicine can tell us about individual health and life — past, present and future: genes, environment, brain and body.

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Category: Biology, Events

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Kishore Hari

About the Author ()

Kishore Hari is the founder Down to a Science, a science cafe based in San Francisco. He is most passionate about making science discussion fun and accessible for adults, the kind of discussion that leads to positive change in the world. Professionally, he is a water treatment consultant in San Francisco. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Kishore came to the Bay Area to get a chemistry degree from UC Berkeley. He now specializes in residential water treatment, working with companies such as PUR, Brita, and Camelbak.
  • http://www.thetech.org/genetics/ Barry Starr

    How'd he afford all those tests?

  • http://www.sciencecafesf.com Kishore Hari

    He did receive about 150K worth of tests over the course of writing the book. Much of it was paid for by various publishing outlets. Some was given pro-bono for the publicity in the book. David is a charmer too, I'm sure he negotiated some prices down with his wit.

  • Cindy Woolrich

    I am wondering about a tablet Nidrane 500mg, taken x2 a day, I was given to prevent me from getting Epilepsy after having an EEG back in the mid 60's. Do you know of this medication? I took it for 2 years straight. I was supposed to take it for a further 5 years but it made me to sleepy and I stopped taking it. Could Nidrane 500mg leave any side effects? Thank you.