Brain Food (part 8: a little more baseline)

As I mentioned earlier, while measuring my balance I’ve been listening to a book called Cod: The Fish that Changed the World. Around Hour 4 of the book I realized it was related to what I was doing: fish, brain food. Duh!

Each test of balance consists of 5 warmup trials followed by 15 regular trials. Each trial generates one number, a duration: how long I stand on one foot before the other foot touches the floor. It’s is a bit like surfing–balance, balance, balance, balance, balance, wipe out. (Surfers, skateboarders, skiers, snowboarders, gymnasts . . . this may interest you.) I enter the stopwatch times directly into my laptop. Each test lasts about 12 minutes. Because of the book, they’re pleasant.

I made several more baseline measurements of my balance with two changes:

1. To reduce fluctuations in the concentration of omega-3 in my brain, I did my best to take the flaxseed oil capsules as evenly spaced as possible. The general rule was to take 1 every 2.4 hours (= 10 per day). I didn’t take the capsules with me when I left home but I did follow that rule when I was home (not waking up to take them, however).

2. To make the distribution of (log) balance times more Gaussian (normal), I raised the maximum possible time from 30 seconds to 60 seconds. Previously I had stopped the test at 30 seconds; now the cutoff was 60 seconds. The problem was 30 seconds was too common — my balance was too good. Before the change, 3% of baseline measurements (6 out of 210) were 30 seconds. After the change, 12% of measurements (25 out of 210) were between 30 and 60 seconds and <1% (1 out of 210) were 60 seconds. The graph below shows results (mean & standard error) for 28 sessions.
The early problem (first 10 tests), discussed in my previous post, was that the means were fluctuating too much. A one-way ANOVA, with each test a different level, gave F(9, 140) = 2.6, p = 0.008. This is why I started trying to evenly distribute the flax capsules over the day. This seemed to work. For the last 18 tests, F(17, 252) = 1.0, p = 0.4. Unfortunately there is obviously an upward trend but that is okay because the change I am going to make — much less omega-3 — should if anything impair balance.

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