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A Michigan Life Preserver? Backyard Brains and Ann Arbor featured on PBS

As you know, Backyard Brains is a small start-up in the struggling state of Michigan. Last month, Ray Suarez and the crew from PBS came to highlight Ann Arbor, as one type of city in it’s Patchwork Nation project. The scope of this project is add granularity to gross segmentation of “blue states” vs. “read states”, and they have identified 12 types of places across the US, including: Evangelical Epicenters, Empty Nests, Boom Towns, etc.

Each of the 12 region types were highlighted by choosing a city and focusing attention on some aspect of life there. Ann Arbor was chosen as the quintessential “Campus and Careers” city, so PBS focused on how Ann Arbor is surviving in a turbulent Michigan economy. Backyard Brains does make a brief cameo in the beginning. Enjoy!

ByB Concludes Ivy League Visits, Celebrates Cricket Cigarettes

ByB is back in Ann Arbor after a 1600 mile road trip to Boston and Ithaca to visit Harvard and Cornell. Our guest lecture for Professor Murthy’s neuroscience course went very well; in a first for ByB, the cigarette gatorade cricket ganglion experiment definitively worked! Too bad we weren’t recording the data. Tim put a cricket on wax underneath a microscope, exposed the ganglion, positioned the ganglionizer micromanipulator prototype into position, hooked the bipolar electrodes to the SpikerBox, and heard evoked spikes (from blowing on the Cerci)!!!

Then, Greg took a cigarette (Natural Sherman Unfiltered), put it in a bottle of gatorade, shook it up, and Tim then aliquoted this potent mixture onto the exposed ganglia. And to the delight of everyone in the class, the ganglion neurons increased their firing rate and we even heard some neurons dying (baaaarrrrrraaaaaaaaa…you all know what it sounds like)!Nicotine affects Acetylcholine receptors? Who knew?

Some photos from our trip:

Going to Sever HallMarzullo, Murthey, Gagethe StudentsThe Lecture

We also visitedMichael Fee‘s lab at MIT, on the way teaching folks on the subway about neurons:


On the way back to Ann Arbor, Tim stopped by Cornell to visit the pioneers of inexpensive Neurophysiology: The CRAWDAD group. Tim felt at home in the beautiful campus and Mudd Hall, where the magic happens and neurobiology is king.


Mudd Hall

Tim also met local neuroelectronics guru Bruce Land, who offered some helpful tips on amplifiers. “Remember what you did 10 years ago? We are trying to do the same thing.” He gave us his best wishes.

Land endorse

ByB to Guest Lecture at Harvard this Friday 2 PM, Sever Hall, Room 202

If you are in the Boston Area this week, come by Sever Hall, Room 202, at 2 PM this Friday the 20th, for a special lecture by ByB at the Neuroscience Course taught by Professor Venkatesh Murthy. Hecklers welcome, electronics heads even more (survey: what’s your favorite single-ended instrumentation amp?) Hope to see you there!


And yes, we will be driving Bopper.