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Mind Control. With Lasers.

Coming soon to a backyard near you.

At least, that’s the idea. We’re sure the technology will catch up if we give it enough prodding and throw an intern or two its way. And hey if not? There’s still lasers, sounds like a win/win to me. Wait we don’t get lasers either? This is really going downhill fast. Apparently the higher ups don’t think beams of focused high energy photons wantonly sprayed at the brains of schoolchildren is good science.

science_child

I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with this

Ok you know what, how about beams of somewhat lower energy photons, and brains of something whose parents won’t send us more angry letters after little Johnny tattletale has another run in with the burn ward. How about LEDs and a bug? Well then.

Mind control.

Coming soon to a backyard near you.

And it is. Technically. So long as the mind you want to control is our tough lil buddy Drosophila Melanogaster AKA the fruit fly. And so long as the nefarious deeds you want your insatiable army of insect minions to thoughtlessly carry out is…sticking out their tongue. THEN YES. We’ve got mind control.

fly_regulation_apparatus

It’s called optogenetics, and it’s pretty crazy stuff, really. Long story short, we can stick a gene into the fruit flies that makes certain neurons, say, the sweet taste receptor Gr5a, sensitive to certain wavelengths of light-in this case, red light, because it is capable of passing through their exoskeleton into the neurons beneath. That way, if you set the little guys in front of an LED and blast away, they think the Kool Aid man just suplexed their face. And what is a fruit fly’s reaction to opening the floodgates of sugary heaven? They stick out their tongue.

It turns out you can rig up an LED with a microcontroller so that when two wires from the circuit come in contact with the fly, it completes the circuit, treating the fly as a resistor, and activates the LED. This lets us time contact with the fly to when the fly receives light (and therefore sweet-tasting) stimulation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEyBSmHnnKA

If that was a little hard to see, here’s an up close and personal version of the events.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwNUyFWzp5o

And of course, nothing is truly scientific until we’ve mechanized it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgGOvc-04gY

It might sound trivial, but there’s actually a lot to getting a response like this without any invasive action other than light stimulation. Optogenetics really opens a lot of possibilites up for experimentation that just weren’t feasible before. It took the world of neuroscience by storm just a few years ago and is on the short list for the Nobel Prize, and we‘ve got a crack team of top scientists working to bring this technology to your own backyard.

Ok, slight exaggeration again, maybe, they’re actually interns working on it. Well, an intern. But we’ve stuck him in our basement with a steady supply of mountain dew and cheetos, and if that’s not science, I don’t know what is.

intern_feed_station

Science!

I’ve just been told that in fact its not actually science. According to them, “good science” involves some sort of method, and numbers, and repeatable experimentation. Apparently blood, sweat and cheeto dust just aren’t enough for some people. We’ll have the intern fill you in on the details.


Neural Interfaces Desde Santiago Hasta Oaxaca to Ann Arbor

In March 2014 we went to Mexico’s first Maker Faire, invited by Amor Muñoz, a Mexican Textile and Electronic artist, who we met at Chile’s Santiago MakerFaire in November 2013. The Mexico MakerFaire took place in Oaxaca, a place known for traditional crafts, pero ahora se esta transformando en un lugar de “Nuevos-Makers” de diseño, electronica, etc.

During this MakerFaire, we ran a two day workshop where we met Jose Enrique, un alumno de ingeniera electronica. He knew his electronics, y nos ayudó mucho durante el taller. Jose asked if he could have some extra equipment for his studies – specifically, an extra Arduino for more experiments with the EMG SpikerShield.

We said, “Sure, but promise us that you will send us a video of something you did with this gear, with a deadline of three weeks.” Y el lo hizo, tres semanas después nos envió un video de liquid cystal display (LCD) contralado con la actividad de sus músculos. So….Let’s do more! We gave him a job offer to design “three interfaces” with the EMG SpikerShield, and importantly, write them up in BYB style so we could add them to our website. Durante Mayo y Julio, trabajabamos en equipo, and now it’s ready – Versión en EnglishVersion in Español). You can learn how to control a stepper motor, an LCD screen, and a Gripper arm with your muscle activity!

Cuando todo estaba listo,  we asked Jose, “Gracias por tu buen trabajo, Can you send us your bank details so we can wire you the compensation for your good work?” Jose counter-offered, saying, “Can you send me an oscilloscope instead?”
Ummm….like… o sea….onda…  Yeah! we can do that. An engineer that wants to be paid in equipment that allows him to invent more? We approve. We bought the oscilloscope he wanted from Amazon and sent it on down to Oaxaca. It is now part of Jose’s lab. Gracias por tu trabajo Jose, e ¡inventa más! Con nuestros cerebros quemando con el fuego de creatividad y nuestras manos productivas podemos dar a luz cosas maravillosas a este mundo.  See Jose’s home lab below.  Eso es donde las ideas se transforman en realidad.

We should have expected no less. Our main method of communication has been through that popular invention of Mark Zuckerburg, and this is Jose’s profile photo. ¡Saludos! Stay tuned… we are now beginning to work on EEG’s together. Also, Happy Birthday Tesla!

 


New Experiment released – The Human-Human-Interface

If you came by our booth at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last November in San Diego, perhaps you saw (and participated in) our newest experiment – the “human-human-interface.” When one person contracts their muscles, we use our EMG SpikerShield amplifier paired with an Arduino to cause a partner’s muscles to contract as well. Our first generation is now live, and we in the BYB research lab are currently working on the next generation for finer levels of muscle stimulation and interfacing with multiple muscle groups.

But, of course, the question now is: do you want to be the controlled, or the controller?