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College Comment
Working the Guinea Pig Circuit

I don’t like doing it. But course packets are expensive these days, and it’s good, fast, honest money.My friends think I’m crazy. I can’t even tell my parents. But it’s my body, and I’ll do with it as I please. So I just lie back, close my eyes, try to relax, and hope it doesn’t hurt too much. When those twenty-dollar bills get flipped into my hand, it all seems worthwhile.

Are you an 18-to-28-year-old non-smoker available for a 45-minute perception test in exchange for eight dollars? I am, and I’ll do more than that. Sure, lots of people dabble in the small stuff: the occasional psych freebie, a five-dollar survey, maybe a ten-dollar dexterity test. There are, however, a few of us out there—the estrogen-injected, electrically-shocked, drug-testing, egg-donating few—who are willing to risk permanent bodily harm in exchange for some quick cash. The more dangerous, the more scarring, the better the pay.

I walked into the office, my palms sweating, ready to test the “effects of mGluR2 Agonist (ly354740) vs. Placebo in the Fear Potentiated Startle Paradigm.” The objective was to see how an anti-anxiety drug would affect my reflexes and emotional response.

The experiment began with two large white pills. In the cubicle next to me a man was testing what I understood to be a controlled form of an otherwise illicit substance. I spent the next two hours letting the drug sink in, doing homework, and listening to him mumble to himself. A doctor came in every half hour to ask how he felt and if he heard the voices of God or the Devil. By the time I left, no divine beings had spoken to him, but he had apparently held a moving conversation with his left foot.

As for me, I wasn’t too nervous until the administrator started taping wires to my face and wrist. He stuck two detectors just below my left eye to record my reflex response to electric shocks administered to the inside of my left wrist. He then assured me that the shocks wouldn’t be any worse than one from an electrical outlet. If this was meant to calm me, it didn’t work.

Renting your body to science can be a scary business. You draw the line—“That’s as far as I’ll go”—then you slowly cross it and redraw it over and over again. Before you know it, you’re bald, numb, or going through temporary menopause at age 21. For ly354740 they subjected me to pregnancy tests for the next three months; it had been deemed a safe enough drug for me, but whether it could give gills to my unborn children is yet to be determined. Sure it’s a little freaky, but if you don’t mind short bouts of discomfort and nausea, then pee into this cup and initial pages 3–7.  the end


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