Backyard Brains has just added another feature to our ever longer list of media appearances! This time, our co-founder and CEO, Dr. Greg Gage, talked for The Gastronauts, Duke University’s monthly seminar and podcast series. This seminar is being organized by researchers passionate about gut-brain matters. But when one invites the driving force behind Backyard Brains, one has to squeeze in an occasional cockroach too!
“If I were God and wanted to make the perfect brain machine interface, I’d have made a cockroach,” says Greg in the podcast. Indeed, he adds, underneath a roach’s antenna, there’s a little tube where a wire fits perfectly.
But there’s more to our mission than creepy crawlies. This info doesn’t get heard every day: over 46,000 people have heard a spike for the very first time in their lives, using our DIY neuroscience gear. And this is just according to the cold, hard numbers that we have in writing. In reality, it probably never ever happened for a SpikerBox to be used by a single person. More often than not, our SpikerBoxes go to schools and research institutions where each of them gets to play spikes for years and generations, into many an curious ear. That could easily bump up the number to at least four or five the figure!
Our co-founder also talked about a variety of conceptual and engineering ideas and tips that came to us from high-schoolers who were using our gear in their school labs. For example, the cockroach-machine interface we made had a major flaw: before long, the cockroach would adapt to stimuli and just start living with it. Why not play music into it? Indeed, it worked up to a point. “But even more successful were little blinders that made them adapt slower as they couldn’t integrate other info that was coming – a brilliant idea that we never came up with! Then we implemented a randomization function into our stimulus,” Greg recalls.
There was also mention of our new book, which came as a culmination to our decade-long work on neuroscience experiments for everyone, but also some exciting new projects that are currently being cooked in the BYB kitchen.
Every fencer will hear it countless times: warm-ups are a MUST. Do them and they’ll bump up your performance. Skip them and you may end up hurting yourself.
But not every fencer will ask why! Supriya Nair, a busy sixth-grader from Redmond, WA, decided to conduct an experiment and find out what the correlation is between exercise and performance in her favorite sport. Where other people see a self-evident truth that doesn’t need any questioning, this scientifically-minded middle-schooler saw a hypothesis that she can poke through to test it, quantify it, and prove it!
And what better way to do that than to:
sport a set of electrodes of a Neuron SpikerBox to capture an EMG signal from her right hand and right leg as she lunges,
measure her muscles’ reaction time from rest to touche in controlled circumstances, with and without 15-minute warm-ups, and compare the findings.
“I’d always hear it from coaches that I needed to do pre-bout exercise. But there was no quantitative data that would support it, just qualitative. And frankly, I was not very disciplined in warm-ups,” Supriya told us in a Zoom interview. That’s how she came up with the idea to eavesdrop on her muscles’ electrical activity using the SpikerBox her dad got her, and measure it to see whether it adds up to the hypothesis. And boom! Pre-bout exercise lasting only 15 minutes can improve a fencer’s performance by a whopping 15%, she discovered.
Ph.D. student and friend of Backyard Brains, Brinnae Bent of Duke University, recently hosted a class for seniors participating in the “Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke (OLLI at Duke).” With help from some colleagues at North Carolina State University, she put on an afternoon workshop in Electrophysiology for these lifelong learners.
From its website, “OLLI at Duke offers a wide array of courses in literature, history, religion, philosophy, natural sciences, social sciences, performing arts, art and architecture, economics, finance, computers and lifestyle issues.”
Participants in the Osher class performed e-phys experiments using our Muscle SpikerShield Bundles! The participants were excited to see their very own EMG signals and to test their strength against the LED array on the SpikerShield. And, as it often does, discussion turned towards the implications of the technology and the importance of bringing this education to more people.
Discussing and Understanding Principles of Electrophysiology
We’re always excited to see what our friends and colleagues are doing with our kits! If you ever feel inspired to do some outreach of your own, please feel free to send us some photos and a brief description of the experience and we’ll be sure to include it on our site!