Backyard Brains Logo

Neuroscience for Everyone!

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

items ()

Backyard Brains Welcomes Newest Chilean Intern: Conduction Velocity in Different Plants

conduction velocity in different plants
Tim and I talking about our experiments at the Peruvian Restaurant “Ajicito” over Ceviche, Maracuya juice and pisco sour

— Written by Carla Contreras Mena —

Hello, I’m Carla Contreras Mena, a student of Biochemistry at the University of Santiago of Chile (which we locally call Usach). I currently work in a Neuroscience Laboratory with professor Dr. Patricio Rojas, where we are investigating the neurophysiological difference of electrical activity in the mouse hippocampus between a control and a model of autism. Here is a picture of my research:

mouse hippocampus

Section of the hippocampus, specifically in the dentate gyrus of a C57BL/6 strain mouse; E = stimulating electrode; R = recording electrode

In search of an internship for my degree, my professor recommended Backyard Brains. In my first meeting with Backyard Brains, I listened a bit about this interesting way to learn electrophysiology in plants and how a simplified amplifier works to learn and teach at the same time.

I decided to learn more about it, so I accepted the offer letter!

First Steps

Did you know that plants also use electricity to function? They don’t have neurons but use electrical signaling like we do to detect events in the environment. And this electrical signaling has a speed. But what is it? The studies of plants associated electrochemical phenomena in response to stimuli such as applied pressure, chemical substance, or, in our case, thermal stimuli (use of fire).

I needed to learn which plants are necessary for the investigation and how to care for them. In my house I had to make a nice space to have eight different plants such as: Cherry Tomatoes, Ruda, Mint, Black Dollar, Rosemary, Venus Flytrap, Basil, and Moss.

Then I learned how to perform the experiments with an electrophysiological method using a prototype two-channel amplifier Backyard Brains has developed. To use this device, I have to install the Backyard Brains software “Spike Recorder App” on my computer. After several attempts, I was able to get and record different electrical signals from the plants.

Cherry Tomatoes, Ruda, Mint, Black Dollar, Rosemary, Venus Flytrap, Basil, Moss and Plant SpikerBox
A photo of my garden with all the plants for the study

With all these steps I was ready to collect all data, distance between electrodes, difference in the time of the response peaks and then calculate the conduction velocity. The current plants I have in my garden are Venus Fly Traps, Argentina Dollar, Rue, Mint, Rosemary, Basil, and an unidentified Moss.

First signal from a Mint plant

We can see how clearly in a two-channel device we observe two similar signal peaks with a specific time difference. Where the conduction velocity will be the ratio between the time and the distance between the electrodes. In this case, the time between the two peaks is 2.5 s, the distance between the electrodes is 10 mm, which gives us a conduction velocity of 4 mm/s. Note that this is 12,500 – 20,000x slower than the sensory Alpha — nerves in human arms which have conduction velocities between 50-80 m/s.

About Me

I really like to do science, above all to show people the importance of learning something new every day. But that’s not all, we can do whatever we want if you put your mind to it. What makes us people are our hobbies, and I love music.

I’ve been learning about instruments since I was 8 years old. My love for music came together with art, I really like to do sewing and crafting, everything related to Cosplay. A little bit of my work:

We’ll Continue to Work Together!

It’s very interesting to analyze data about different plants and do electrophysiology research in a different domain of life, so stay tuned as I continue investigating electrical signal propagation in plants.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.