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Spikes on the Android!

While most of us were enjoying our relaxing summer vacations, our developer Nate was hard at work porting our Backyard Brains mobile application to the Android platform.  We have just released our first version to the Android Market, and Yes! it’s a free download.  We are happy to now add the android phones to our growing list of supported devices for Backyard Brains data analysis.

For those that are interested in helping out in the future development of application or just interested in learning JAVA, we have released the source code under the GNU General Public License (GPL) license. You can get access to all of our source code on Github: https://github.com/BackyardBrains/Backyard-Brains-Android-App.

This is an early release (0.1b), so it only provides limited capabilities for now. But it does the most important thing. It allows you to see Spikes on the Android! See photo below, (that’s Nate’s hand). Watch for updates in the Market Place, as we will soon be adding more functionality.

Don’t forget to install our application from https://market.android.com/details?id=com.backyardbrains. Happy spikes!

 


Alma Schools High School Students Present Research on the Reaction Times of Distracted Drivers

This year, we were excited to release two new kits in concert with our Muscle SpikerBox Pro, kits that are designed to help capture very precise data about reflexes (The Reflex Hammer) and reactions (The Reaction Timer). It didn’t take long for students to start getting their hands on these tools, and we are excited today to present the results of one classroom’s research which was enabled by these tools!

Juli D. and her Anatomy and Physiology class were interested in studying reactions and reflexes, first by studying reaction times in “distracted driving” scenarios, and then by coming up with experimental procedures to see what variables may affect reflexes.

Juli shared a lot of pictures and information about her and her students’ work this summer, made possible by a Michigan education grant from Tri-County Electric! From Juli:

“Tri-County Electric offered us a grant of $2000 to purchase muscle spiker boxes and reaction timers. The purpose was to have students develop a lab that would test how reaction times change with distractions while driving. Backyard Brains graciously worked with us through some kinks and even supplied us with new equipment to expand our research into how reflexes change with different temperatures.

Students experimenting with the Muscle SpikerBox Pro and Reaction Timer
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[Summer’16 Internship] Neuroscience of Grasshopper Jumps: Recording live neurons: the SpikeRecorder app

In the project instructions, I’ve briefly talked about the BYB SpikeRecorder app that I’ve been using on an iPad to add to my grasshopper vision project the flavor of a low-cost-and-DIY-albeit-of-great-quality tool. Here, I’ll talk about it in a bit more details to give the spotlight to one of the main components of my project.

Firstly, the purpose of the original SpikeRecorder version that BYB has published is to record data directly to your PC (or tablets & smartphones) while you can observe the recording in real time. There’s also the functionality of saving the recording to be played back anytime. And if you’re familiar with the classic model of an action potential (aka spikes!), the SpikeRecorder also allows a threshold view, where you can set your threshold and get a snapshot of your spikes.

This is a classic “spike” event when the electrochemical properties of a neuron is at work. These spikes are essentially changes in voltage due to the chemical and electrical difference inside and outside of a neuron’s membrane. Movements of sodium and potassium across the membrane via channels and the way their charges get distributed — these are the main components of a spike.

Art by Backyard Brains

If you’re interested in checking out this app and perhaps get some spikes, the app is available for android and ios. And of course, the code is on github for the open source spirit!

One of my mentors, Stanislav Mircic, is the computer science god of BYB. He graciously added the “Grasshopper experiment” functionality to the app. The app now can provide both the visual stimuli (simulated balls thrown at grasshopper’s eye) and recording/analysis of the DCMD neuron activity.

Sorting a bunch of spikes at once:

Zooming into one DCMD spike!

By Dieu My Nguyen