Friday, 27 November 2009

Slap on the electrodes, strap me in and spin me till I vom!!

I don't know....the things I do in the name of education!
It's that time of year again at work, time for the Barany Chair practical. In brief, this practical demonstrates how the fluid of the inner ear behaves whilst a subject is being spun, and its involvement in our sense of balance. Apparently the Barany chair is used extensively in training student pilots and also in motion sickness therapy.....I can believe that last one.

Normally I would help Bruce out during the practical, but I'm away on a course during the week it's running, so he has recruited a new victim, one of our colleagues Nick. Today was the runthrough for the practical, two people are needed to run the practical and as Nick was being briefed on the equipment for the first time, guess who got to be the 'subject'.



Behold the instruments of my torture:

The Barany chair itself. This beauty is permanently installed in one of our lecture theatres. I wish I'd been there during the pre-project phase of the refurb:

'Ok, well, I think we've got this almost wrapped up, is there anything you'd like to add? Any special requirements'

'Well...there is one, 'special' requirement'

'That's fine, let's talk about it, what do you need?'

'It's a chair'

'This is a lecture theatre, don't you have enough chairs already?'

'A dentists chair'

'.............a dentists chair?'


'Okaaay, I'll ask th-'

'We're not has to spin round and round like an egg beater on crack!'

'I er-'

'And it needs a seatbelt....cos of the spinning you see'

I also wonder what everyone thinks, when they come to the theatre for a maths or chemistry lesson, of the instrument of torture lurking in the corner, fascinating and yet infusing you with an intangible terror.

Check these babies out, an array like this would strike fear into the heart of the bravest man.

I would like to begin by pointing out that the bottle is NOT lube, thanks for that, put your tiny minds back in the gutter!! We have:

Electrode gel

Alcohol wipes

Sticky electrodes


Micropore tape

Some dodgy looking wires

and instructions for 'Connecting the Subject'

That's me that is....and so we begin.

Nick starts to gel me up with electrodes *winky winky*, one on the outside left eyesocket and one on the outside right eyesocket. Taping me up, plugging me in and sitting me down, until I look something like this:

You can't see this very well, but what I have hanging there round my neck is a transmitter with 2 9V batteries sellotaped to the outside. The electrodes hanging out of it are micropored almost to my eyeballs. It's just as well I was about to be strapped firmly into a spinning chair, walking down the corridor and onto the streets of London looking like this would very soon have me attacked I have no doubt! Plenty of excuse for a stop and search going on right here

This array of materials transmits my eye movements to the laptop Bruce has set up on the other end of the room. If you hadn't already been firmly seatbelted into the rather odd-looking furnishing then the initial phase of the practical would lull you into believing that maybe this practical is nowt but a glorified eye exam:

'Look straight ahead please'

'Now look to your left'

'and now to your right'

'and back straight ahead'

I followed Nicks instructions to the very letter. I was silently congratulating myself on knowing left from right when all of a sudden the mechanical beastie beneath me hummed into life and I was spun into action. The chair was the eggbeater...and I was the egg. It doesn't look very fast when you watch it, but when you're strapped in there you can feel the G's around your feet, feeling like they want to detach themselves from the rest of you.

As I was spinning, the little doohickey round my neck transmitted my eye movemnets to a computer set-up Bruce had on the other side of the room, displayed as a rapid up and down line on the projected screen.

This is SCIENCE baby!

I won't go into any more detail than that for fear of boring you to death. Suffice to say that I managed not to bring up the massive sausage and mash I'd just had for lunch...much to Nicks relief. Actually, for a while I became quite relaxed...that was after they blindfolded me and spun me round until I almost fell into a coma.

Here he is, looking so sweet and innocent, orchestrator of my nightmare.

It's alright for him....the electrodes had been put away by now!! He couldn't resist a little whirl in the chair though :D

Thank you Wiki


  1. No wonder you like your job, so much more than most people.

    What did you do today Becki?

    Spinny spins in the twirly chair *grins insanely*


  2. Twirly, twirly twirly chay-er

    It is quite a lot of fun actually, I must admit. What a way to spend an afternoon at work :)