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First Recorded Spikes on the OLPC

While Greg and Evan have been working on modifying the Measure program on the OLPC (one laptop per child) in order to view and store neural data (the current build can’t store data, and it needs a trigger function and better visualization), Tim has been experimenting with the Audacity program. This is the same program we use on our PCs and Macs to view the neural data; the program is open source and has excellent signal processing capabilities (Tim has even written songs using this program).

Audacity is in its first OLPC build (you have to launch it from the terminal), but it works!


In the picture above, you can see the SpikerBox (with a cockroach leg on it) going to the microphone input of the OLPC, and Audacity displaying the neural data. The three bursts in the center of the display are when I blew on the barbs of the cockroach leg, causing an evoked discharge in the nerves. The software works well enough for demos, but there are three things we would like to see:

1) Fixing the play-through function during monitoring and recording. Listening to the output through the computer speakers while Audacity is recording is important for our teaching purposes. Turning on “Software Playthrough” causes Audacity to only record 1/2 second then crash.

2) Saving the recorded data in the journal of the OLPC. From the save menu of Audacity, you cannot navigate to the


directory (which is the journal directory), as the .sugar folder is invisible in Audacity. Right now we are saving to the Audacity applications folder.

3) This is a minor thing, but wrapping the Audacity program so that it can be loaded from the main OLPC application page (rather than the terminal) would be nice.

Stayed tuned. We continue our labor of love…

Audacity Output

Above is a screenshot from the OLPC. You can see the spontaneous discharge nicely (as well as when I blew on the leg on the right side of the display). Having received my chops in Mammalian Extracellular Neurophysiology, I am amazed at the signal to noise ratio of invertebrate neurons. Cockroaches have it going on!

Spikes on the OLPC

Backyard Brains is beginning to make in-roads with the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) initiative. This week we were able to display spike waveforms from a cockroach leg in real-time on the OLPC laptop. We are using the “Measure” application to display the data. Note the spikes on the XO PC below from our prototype 3 of the Spikerbox.

First XO Spikes

There are still some features lacking that we will need to get sorted out before we can use the OLPC for experiments. We would like to be able to theshold the spikes in real time, as well as figure out how to retrieve the stored data for analysis.

Evan joins Backyard Brains

Backyard brains is proud to announce the addition of our first intern! Evan, a gifted high-schooler, will be joining the Backyard Brains team as a part of the University of Michigan’s mentorship program. Evan’s tasks will include working with the OLPC to get it up and running.

Evan joins Backyard Brains

Our Backyard Brains weekly meeting in the home workshop is shown above. From left to right: Greg, Evan, and Tim.