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BYB Summer Camp Presents: Scorpions?! Why’d it have to be scorpions!? – A Screenplay by Dylan the Scorpion King

A pitiable foo

A scorpion by any other name

Greetings!  My name’s Dylan, and I’m interning at a company that loves cockroaches here in the land of the Wolverines, where I’m proud to represent Michigan State University’s burgeoning undergraduate neuroscience program. My project involves an examination of scorpion neuroscience, particularly the electrophysiology of their nervous system, and I’m working in collaboration with the Venom Evolution lab of Ashlee and Matthew Rowe at MSU (http://venomevolution.zoology.msu.edu/).  Little is known about scorpions compared to other kinds of organisms, and even less is known about their nervous system. I’m hoping to shed some light on the shocking mysteries which still lay beneath the armor of these arachnids. (more…)


Four Directions: A RoboRoach Love Story by Olivier

Hello, my name is Olivier and I am a junior in neuroscience at Michigan State University, but for the rest of the summer Ann Arbor is my home as I work on a research project as a Backyard Brains intern! My goal is to improve upon the roboroach by adding further directional control. Left and right was a good start, but it’s only halfway there! Presently the roboroach consists of an electrode placed on the cockroach that feeds to a ground wire in the thorax and two stimulation wires, one in each antenna, which can be used to electrically stimulate the cockroach to change the direction the cockroach is facing. I am attempting to changes to the device and surgery to make the cockroach move more forwards and backwards using stubby antennae-like structures called cerci. Cerci are located at posterior end of the abdomen and serve as sensors to alert the cockroach to oncoming danger, usually a predator, and initiate an escape reflex that quickly moves the cockroach out of harm’s way. Cerci do this by responding to the changes in air current.
cerci

The goal is to commandeer both cerci in order to steer the insect directly forwards or backwards (more…)


BYB Summer Camp Internships: Alex on How to Train Your Cockroach

alexb1p7

I’m Alex, a neuroscience major from the wonderful Michigan State University (GO GREEN!)**, down in Ann Arbor for the summer as an intern with Backyard Brains. I’m working to be a behavior trainer of the cockroach, Periplaneta Americana, through means of operant conditioning. What is operant conditioning? In short, operant conditioning is a way of changing a behavior through a means of reinforcement whether it is reward or punishment. **editor’s note: Go Blue! 😉

At the start of this internship I faced the initial hurdle of (more…)