Backyard Brains Logo

Neuroscience for Everyone!

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

items ()

Backyard Brains Receives Gracious Pro Bono Modeling Work

Fellow engineers and scientists, you who see the term “modeling” and believe we are speaking of CAD drawings or Spice Simulations, we can assure you we are much less sophisticated and much more shallow. We are talking about hot people, and hot people holding our hot products. Last Friday as we were walking to our production floor (Greg’s apartment) to build some electrodes and SpikerBoxes, we noticed some photographers and models in front of our window! The oscilloscopes and sign had grabbed their attention.

The two local photographers, Justin Trupiano and Michael Shuster, and their models, were doing some contract work for a popular outdoor sportsware shop on State Street. We at Backyard Brains believe in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities, so we kindly asked the models and photographers if they would be willing to shoot a few pro bono shots with our gadgets and insects, in the spirit of helping a small Ann Arbor start-up (us). Quite cheerfully, they agreed! Thanks Justin and Mike! Below are the high quality beautiful photos. Feel the effect of the marketing. If you buy a SpikerBox, you can be like, and hang out with, people like this, the Salt of the Earth, Southeastern Michigan.

Recording from Cricket Cercal Ganglia

Does the SpikerBox work on anything other than a cockroach leg? Yes, you can record from any invertebrate central nervous system but you often need a manipulator to accurately position your electrode. One of our users, Professor Walton Jones at the KAIST University in South Korea, recently experimented on the cricket cercel system. To those of you stuck in the mammal world (we were there too, we understand), the cerci are sensory organs on the rear of crickets and other insects (including cockroaches).

The cercal system is sensitive to vibration (wind, sound) and is a classical favorite of invertebrate physiologists; the anatomy of the sensory neurons’ projections to the terminal abdominal ganglion are well understood.

But can we record from the neural fibers of the cercal system with only the SpikerBox? If you place one electrode needle at the base of the cercus, and one electrode needle in the body as ground, like this:

and touch or blow on the cerci, you get a response like this (below is mp3,wav file can be downloaded here]:

[audio:|titles=Cricket Cercal Response]

Thanks for sharing the data Walton!

How to Care for Your Cockroaches

Many users have e-mailed us, curious, bewildered, and frustrated by their lack of education in cockroach husbandry. We know, we know, some skills are just not taught in today’s educational system. But, in 100 words or less, here we describe how to take care of your humble cockroaches.

1. We prefer to buy small terrariums from local pet stores (they cost ~$3-$5). You can see a variety of sizes here from our living neuroscience library. We have a few species that we keep isolated for some experiments. You can use any plastic container you have on hand as well, just make sure to make air holes. Discoid cockroaches cannot crawl on glass or plastic, so if your container is big enough, you don’t even need a lid!

2. Fill the bottom of the terrarium with soil. We use unfertilized potting soil we buy from the local hardware store for $1 per 5 lbs, but honestly, dirt from outside your house will work. The cockroaches enjoy burrowing under the soil.

3. Throw in some toilet paper rolls and wood scraps for them to play in.

4. For food, we prefer to use lettuce, as it provides water, and doesn’t mold. We have heard that dog food is ideal as it’s cheap and contains a lot of protein which will cause the cockroaches to grow faster. The dog food molded too easily in our attempts, so we have found that lettuce works fine as a sole food source. Carrots also work.

5. Throw in your cockroaches. They prefer to be at 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. They can handle colder temperatures but will not grow very fast. Replace the lettuce every week or so, and enjoy your new easy-to-care-for friends! Below is a movie of a healthy sustainable cockroach colony. You can listen to their pitter-patter at nights when they are most active.