labratI went for my second session of testing for the Neurocognitive Correlates of Hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes in Older Adults study at Baycrest’s Brain Health Centre. It was humbling and nerve-wracking! Talk about feeling like an experiment.

A good little nerd, I used to love tests in school. But for these, there’s no way I could prepare. Thank goodness I’m in the ‘healthy control’ group or I’d feel even worse.

There were hours of memory tests: young Noah would read out lists of words (giraffe, celery, motorcycle, cupboard, lamp, desk, zebra, cabbage, subway, etc.) and then he’d have me do some number matching quiz on the computer, a paper and pencil exercise and then repeat as many of the list of words that I could remember. What? He was talking for too long and my mind wandered. How many of the words were animals? Ummm…How many were methods of transportation? How many were food? And after I’d given my answer, he’d gently ask, “Is that all you can remember?” Then he’d read another list (cucumber, cow, bicycle, etc.) and I’d get to do another ‘press this but not when you see the number 3 keyboard test, then back to the frigging list.

Then it was matching squiggly shapes paired with colours – six at a time, then another distraction and back to recalling which shapes where paired with which colour. That wasn’t too bad. By the fourth time he sprang it on me, I aced it. The other colour matching game involved geometric shapes – stars, squares, circles and triangles with one, two, three or four matching shapes on the original. Then I was handed individual cards to match up. So the first set was not bad – match up the numbers, no matter what the colours. The second was match up the colour no matter the shapes, then match the shape with the numbers. The big thing was, Noah did not give instructions that he’d be switching up the criteria mid-test – that was part of the exercise and I was supposed to catch on. I never did. However, even though I used a lot of bad words, Noah was very good at poker-face. I’d get into a pattern of being correct then he’d mix it up and I’d hear, ‘wrong, wrong, wrong’ in a long sequence until I wanted to throw the damned cards on the floor and go for a coffee. I haven’t been so frustrated in a long time.

I did very well on the addition and subtraction, as much as I hate math (dropped algebra in grade 10 to study Spanish). The word puzzles and definitions I had down cold. Then I had to fill out a survey that asked questions like, I have difficulty maintain my concentration or I do not enjoy activities as much as I used to, with a scale of zero=never to 5=always. The only questions I answered a 2 for occasionally was trying to multi-task too many activities and feeling pressed for time to complete projects. Which is the story of my life.