For 10 weeks, I was able to develop and implement a research project of my very own creation. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and my mother is afraid she will suffer the same fate. I wanted to put my medical student resources to good use and come up with an innovative research project involving memory. With my improv background, I wrote a study aimed at improving memory and mood in people with memory complaints.
The first step was submitting an IRB proposal. The IRB, or Institutional Review Board, makes sure your project is safe when using human subjects. Their main concern is with projects involving new drug therapies so my project was approved with little resistance. After the project was approved, I found an assisted living center willing to pilot test my project. I formed an improv group for experiment and a TV watching group for control. Each participant had their baseline memory and mood tested before the start of the study using various surveys and tests. The study then lasted 10 weeks where each group would either watch TV for an hour or perform improv for an hour.
Different forms of stimulation: sudoku, music and animals, have shown to slow or reverse the effects of memory impairing diseases. Improv, for those of you who do not know, is essentially theatre scenes without a script. This form of stimulation has not been tested with the memory deficient population to see its effects on memory. This study was the first of its kind, to my knowledge. Just being in the presence of the participants, you could see they were improving their memory and problem-solving skills. Their scenes were more fluid and the games we played were no longer a challenge vs. at the beginning of the study. I have received the results of the study but have yet to analyze them with school still in session. The preliminary results either showed improvement in mood/memory or a reduction in regression of memory. I am excited to see if the results are significant and publish my findings.
Sometimes it just takes a little bit of inspiration to spark your willingness to do something great. I encourage you all to not let anything hold you back. This project was difficult, especially doing most of the work on my own. I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to help these participants and when I was playing games with them, nothing in the world could compare. Everyone’s perspective on a problem is unique which means you may have the answer that could solve it.