Steven Castellano, student scientist at High Technology High School, describes what happened in the experiment which won him first place in the MIT THINK competition.
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So, with my project basically it was focusing on alertness and I think I like the student, the tired student, who is trying to stay awake in class or driving while trying to stay awake, or the tired worker, and how do you increase alertness? So, I was looking at different ways to increase alertness, and there's caffeine, but caffeine is generally assumed to have negative side effects. I think its five hundred milligrams taken daily can increase heart rates, blood pressure, et cetera. So, that's not necessarily the ideal solution for increasing alertness and also it's known to be addictive and have diminishing returns. So then, I looked at those neurofeedback devices, and there is something called the Peak Achievement Trainer, and it's a neurofeedback device that supposedly works very well at regulating alertness-increasing or decreasing it, but that's very expensive, it's several thousand dollars, only sold to licensed professionals and it's not very accessible, it's a big device. So, after looking into the problem for a while, I came across an article about acupressure and, in eastern theories, it's been said maybe to regulate alertness -- acupressure's basically said to do a lot. As I said it's mainly for pain relief, but there's a lot of anecdotes about how acupressure can just regulate a whole bunch of body rhythms. So, there wasn't too much research on it, as I dug deeper I found one research article, pretty recently, University of Michigan and they had subjects apply acupressure for one day, stimulation versus relaxation, and subjects that applied acupressure to what is known as Stimulation Areas so that they are more alert during what was supposed to be a boring lecture. So that was a positive sign for acupressure. I wanted to take a more quantitative analysis than a self-rating system. So, I developed what are known as Enumeration Tasks, and during these tasks, there's a black screen and every ten seconds one to twelve white squares flash on the monitor and then, after that, they flash for 0.3 seconds and after that there's a 0.1 second white screen, just to clear the image from the retina, and subjects would write down how many squares they saw. So this is to determine what's known as magnocellular processing. It's basically the quick visual reflexes that one has. So I did that enumeration task, and then after ten more seconds another set of white squares were flashed and this would repeat until all combinations of from one to twelve whites flashed. And I had 36 subjects take this test and then I would score the subjects based on how many they got right up at – an ex and cons, where they were incorrect on like a data acquisition table and then I gave them a total score. So then this enabled me to make three subject groups, where I was able to pair them so that each subject group had the same initial scores in terms of visual attention, like the same number of correct, and also I was able to pair them so that there were six males, six females in each group. So I had three groups, one that was attended to by stimulation acupressure, one for relaxation acupressure, and one for no acupressure. And, as I said, the stimulation acupressure or the relaxation acupressure, it's a slow firm massaging with these two fingers at a ninety-degree angle to the target area for three minutes and there's five areas, so that's 15 minutes each day. It's not too much of a time commitment, but definitely a time commitment that I appreciate from the subjects. And, after the subjects did this for fourteen days, I gave all the subjects the same, not the same, another enumeration task, they all had the same one but it was a different one. And then, after another fourteen days, I gave them a third enumeration task. So during these tasks, in the stimulation acupressure group, the scores increased between days zero and fourteen. There was a statistically significant difference, and then again between day fourteen and twenty-eight. And it was the sa
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