I recently agreed to take part in a pilot study on campus that is looking at the cognitive and physical health of middle-aged women with multiple sclerosis; I volunteered to be a control. There were three parts to this experiment: first, I did exercise tests, including a max-fit test. It was quite the set-up: I'm on a seated elliptical machine (a NuStep), with a clip on my nose, wearing a headpiece holding a flexible tube coming out of my mouth to measure gases and respiration. The resistance got harder every minute, and around 15 minutes I was sure each level would be my last. I conked out at 18 minutes.
The next time I came back for cognitive and memory testing. I quickly figured out that if I could categorize the nine words the tester asked, it was easier to remember them. We also did two sorting tasks (my favorite: patterns!), and a couple of activities on the computer whose point I couldn't quite get. One was to memorize the relative locations of little squiggles on the screen (the "dinosaur" went next to the "angel," which was above the "saxophone"--or did that one look like a "squirrel"?); the other involved remembering which alien creatures went with which landscape photographs. That one had an ignominious end, when a piece of bad code ended the session early.