15 October 2014

The BFE Goes to the Circus

BFE Italia's Davide Pierini assisting in Dr. Edson Filho's study.

by Jon Bale, BFE Research Manager

This was definitely a change of pace from my normal schedule: standing in a multi-storey training room, with aerial trapeze artists dangling from long fabric strips in one corner, a team of acrobats doing handstands one on-top of another on the far side of the room, and myself among the jugglers. No, I'm not a juggler; I was there to run a psychophysiological assessment on them. 

Off to the Circus We Went!
My situation came to be when I was approached by Davide Pierini, the head of BFE Italia, who received a request for assistance on running a study by Edson Filho, Ph.D., from the Behavioral Imaging and Neural Dynamics (BIND) Center at the University of Chieti-Pescara (Università degli Studi G. d'Annunzio Chieti e Pescara), Italy. Through a competitive selection process, Dr. Filho was granted access to the students of the National Circus School (École Nationale de Cirque) in Montreal, Canada. As one of the top competitive circus schools in the world, with only a small skip away from the headquarters of prominent circus companies such as Cirque de Soleil, Tohu, Seven Fingers circus, and Cirque Eloize, no sport scientist would pass over such an opportunity of access, and the BFE was just as excited to help with the project. Off to the circus we went!

The goal of the study was to examine the psychophysiological readings of jugglers at different performance levels, and to compare when the juggler is performing on their own and when teamed up with a partner. The hypothesis was that we would find increased coherence between the individuals of each juggler team.

Measuring performance level of jugglers on their own or with a partner.

Meeting Unique Challenges
There were inherent difficulties to deal with in the data acquisition process of the assessment. Juggling requires movement so electrodes and equipment needed to be well secured to the subjects. Artifacts needed to be minimized to the best of the jugglers' abilities, but within the confines of their performance. To address these issues, we fashioned nylon shirts and belts in order to better hold the equipment and cables taut to the juggler's bodies. We recorded four-channels of EEG, along with heart rate, respiration and skin conductance. There was some definite trial-and-error preparation on how to best collect our data, but in the end it all worked out really well.

We recorded four-channels of EEG, along with heart rate, respiration and skin conductance.

I am happy to report that two full days, and much EEG conductive paste later, we had our study data. Even with helpful tips from professionals, my juggling has not improved, but I have a much greater appreciation for athletes that train in the circus arts.


How the BFE Can Help with Your Research
Planning a study and need assistance with the physical setup or design of the evaluation software? Looking to create a protocol tailored specifically to your own needs? The BFE is here to help with their Software to Meet Your Needs program, as well as Private Mentoring to answer your clinical questions.

Click on the links below to visit the BFE Online Shop for details on these two programs:
Software to Meet Your Needs
Private Mentoring

For more information, contact:
Jon Bale

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