Backyard Brains Logo

Neuroscience for Everyone!

+1 (855) GET-SPIKES (855-438-7745)

items ()

[Summer’16 Internship] Neuroscience of Grasshopper Jumps: How does screen brightness affect DCMD response?

Now that I’ve collected ample data for the “classic” experiment of testing the DCMD response to objects approaching at various sizes and velocities, I want to keep exploring grasshopper vision. So far, the iPad screen is kept at maximum brightness, so the contrast between the white background and the black ball is high and clear. Now, can grasshoppers still see the black ball if the screen brightness is at its darkness? Let’s find out!

Grasshopper G26-072516 is the subject for this test. I performed two extreme brightness levels: the highest and lowest, each for 20 trials with 6cm balls approaching at -2m/s. Note that I measured and changed the amount of brightness by adjusting that brightness bar built into the iPad. So the “lowest” brightness is not complete, pure darkness. The black ball is still identifiable, just very low contrast with the gray background.

And… I obtained results I did not expect! At max brightness, DCMD firing rate peaks at 95Hz. At minimum brightness, it peaks at 90Hz. Very, very similar firing frequency and peaking profile.

Does this mean that grasshoppers can see in the dark?! At least I can say with these negative results that grasshoppers might be able to detect approaching objects even if they din’t highly contrast with the background.

By Dieu My Nguyen

[Summer’16 Internship] Neuroscience of Grasshopper Jumps: New & improved ITI test

In the ‘Preliminary data‘ log, I had begun my data collection and analysis journey. I first performed the intertrial interval, or ITI, test, to determine the ideal time between 2 stimuli so that the time is long enough to avoid the grasshoppers’ habituation to the simulated balls. The results figures I showed in that previous log showed that the 45s ITI was better than the other ITIs in giving us a nice profile of the DCMD neuron activity over time. However, of course, the data visualization could be much improved, and I have been doing that by importing the recordings (stored in JSON files by the SpikeRecorder app) into MatLab (using JSONlab). MatLab yields cleaner and to-scale figures that give us an even better idea of the DCMD profiles in different ITIs.

Here, compare! These are the old figures, not to scale and all are the same height. So I had to label them all with their frequencies:

I performed a new ITI experiment on a new grasshopper, G25-072416-01. This time, I used 3 different ITIs that I think are sufficient: 45s, 22.5s, and 1s. All other experimental parameters are kept constant: iPad screen is 0.10m from the grasshopper’s eye, balls of 0.06m radius approach at -2m/s (negative for the increasingly shortened distance between the eye and the object). 30 trials per ITI test. And the data is processed in MatLab, and it looks beautiful!

Sorry the axis labels are too small to read. Horizontal axis: time to collision, from -2 to 2 seconds. Vertical axis: Firing frequency in Hz. Firing frequency is much higher in the 45s ITI, making it a “good” ITI to use for the subsequent experiments.

By Dieu My Nguyen


[Summer’16 Internship] Neuroscience of Grasshopper Jumps: Recording live neurons: the SpikeRecorder app

In the project instructions, I’ve briefly talked about the BYB SpikeRecorder app that I’ve been using on an iPad to add to my grasshopper vision project the flavor of a low-cost-and-DIY-albeit-of-great-quality tool. Here, I’ll talk about it in a bit more details to give the spotlight to one of the main components of my project.

Firstly, the purpose of the original SpikeRecorder version that BYB has published is to record data directly to your PC (or tablets & smartphones) while you can observe the recording in real time. There’s also the functionality of saving the recording to be played back anytime. And if you’re familiar with the classic model of an action potential (aka spikes!), the SpikeRecorder also allows a threshold view, where you can set your threshold and get a snapshot of your spikes.

This is a classic “spike” event when the electrochemical properties of a neuron is at work. These spikes are essentially changes in voltage due to the chemical and electrical difference inside and outside of a neuron’s membrane. Movements of sodium and potassium across the membrane via channels and the way their charges get distributed — these are the main components of a spike.

Art by Backyard Brains

If you’re interested in checking out this app and perhaps get some spikes, the app is available for android and ios. And of course, the code is on github for the open source spirit!

One of my mentors, Stanislav Mircic, is the computer science god of BYB. He graciously added the “Grasshopper experiment” functionality to the app. The app now can provide both the visual stimuli (simulated balls thrown at grasshopper’s eye) and recording/analysis of the DCMD neuron activity.

Sorting a bunch of spikes at once:

Zooming into one DCMD spike!

By Dieu My Nguyen