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Vsauce’s “Mindfield” Episode Feat. Backyard Brains Is Now FREE to Watch!

Are you a fan of DIY neuroscience or science in general? If yes, you’re bound to enjoy the long-awaited episode of the world-famous Youtuber Vsauce’s series “Mind Field” featuring some of our staple experiments!

Until recently, the show used to require a Youtube Premium subscription, but now you can enjoy all three seasons for free.

So what’s all the fuss about? 

If you’re new to the “Mind Field” show, you’re in for loads of fun and tons of knowledge. Vsauce is a celebrity educator who took it upon himself to explain complex scientific notions in a dynamic and interesting manner, with a tinge of weird and quirky scientific humor. Kind of what we are doing here at Backyard Brains! So it only makes sense that our co-founder Tim Marzullo was a perfect addition to the show. (Check out this blog post to see how much fun he had while shooting the episode.)

mindfield episode
Tim, Michael and Alie giving us a glimpse into their electrifying experience

The episode titled “The Electric Brain” demonstrates another instance of superb cockroach surgery followed by a bug race! You can see our RoboRoach in action as it hijacks a cockroach’s nervous system to send electrical impulses to their antennae. Tim, Michal and Alie controlled the bugs via their smartphones by, you’ve guessed right, swiping left and right. 

It goes on to confirm that swiping got a whole new cultural meaning with the RoboRoach gizmo. (Just remember not to use that hack on Tinder!)

Apart from our own nerdy contribution, the episode is full to the brim of bizarre and even macabre details from the history of neuroscience that will make you totally fall in love with the field – that is, if you haven’t already.

The video also demonstrates how humans can control other humans by turning them into a real puppet show. It makes for a perfect prank that you can perform on your friends.

Check out this and all other episodes of “Mind Field”, and hit that “Share” button to spread the word!


Impress your Grant Providers with DIY Neuroscience

Grant Funded Science!


Just a hop and a skip away from our home office in Ann Arbor Michigan, Biology teachers at Okemos High School requested and received grant funding to introduce several Human-Human-Interfaces into their classrooms. The results left their students stunned…

“‘This feels so weird!’ was a common exclamation. Most students laughed during the experience. A few disliked the sensation, but all left the lesson with a much clearer understanding of how our neurons, brain, and muscles work together.

Past teacher’s have described our kits and experiments as “grant-bait,” and they meant that in the best way possible. By combining elements of Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering, and Project-Based Learning, students can be exposed to cutting-edge concepts in advanced scientific fields without breaking the budget. 

Think about it: When was the last time your grant provider thanked YOU for your request?

“The OEF is grateful to the OHS biology teachers for requesting this equipment and helping to inspire our own students here in Okemos.”

The students are excited, the teachers are satisfied, the grant foundation is happy to see their investment put to good use, and everyone was inspired by the power of Neuroscience in education and learned a little bit more about how their brains and bodies worked. Sounds like a good deal to me!

In fact, just recently we received this message in an email this week from a 7th grade Science Teacher who introduced her students to the nervous system with the Human-Human-Interface:

“Everything went perfectly with the tech I ordered from Backyard Brains! My students were extremely engaged; it was a perfect way to introduce the nervous system to them. I have recommended your products to other science teachers in the area and will be looking to order more in the future for my classroom. Thank you for all that you do!

Required Kit: Human-Human-Interface

Featured in a Viral TED talk (Over 8M views) given by our co-founder, the Human-Human-Interface brings the cutting edge of Neuroscience to your classroom. But there is more to it than just one demonstration! Priced at $260, the Human-Human-Interface also allows you to do Arduino projects, Muscle Physiology labs, and independent Neuroscience Research – just see this example from a 12th grader’s research project!

BRAINDING Project Commences with First Working Prototype

Longtime Backyard Brains fans may recognize Pablo Guerra in the majority of our human interface videos. When not acting for Backyard Brains, Pablo Works as Electronic Music Artist, specifically, modifying electronic music instruments in a discipline called “Circuit Bending.”

Circuit bending or also called “toy hacking” is the art of corrupting a musical toy from your childhood by opening it up and connecting a “jumper” wire to any two circuit locations until you find when the toy emits a strange sound. Finding new sounds is like a treasure hunt, and  it doesn’t need any prior experience with electronics: you make different paths with the wire until you find one that changes the music. Once you find a path that makes a weird noise, you can connect it to a potentiometer allowing modulation of the noise effect.

While Previous Art Projects have existed that convert EEG to Music (and Backyard Brains has this feature as well), Pablo was interested in making a direct interface between his musical instruments using the strength of the EEG alpha wave power to control a100 kilohm digital potentiometer.

We are using a MCP41100 100 kOhm digital potentiometer with the Heart and Brain SpikerShield (our EEG device), that goes on top of an Arduino. 

The pin out is

1- Arduino Digital Out 10

2- Arduino Digital Out 13

3- Arduino Digital Out 11

4,5 – Ground

6-Signal Out

7,8 – +5V on the Arduino

See the video of our first working prototype in action!

Thanks especially goes to BYB Developer Stanislav Mircic for developing the serial interface code that enables communication between our Heart and Brain SpikerShield, Spike Recorder, and the MCP41100 digital potentiometer

Specifically, Pablo modified his machine DjckeO to read in input from our Heart and Brain SpikerShield

 

When Pablo Closes his eyes, alpha power increases, which causes the digital potentiometer to drop from95 kilohms to 70 kilohms. This then modulates a sound generation circuit in Pablo’s Musical Instrument

If you would like to build this, you must

  1. Remove LEDs 3,4, and 6 from the Heart and Brain SpikerShield (two yellow LEDs, and last red LED). This is because we are using those pins now to talk to the Digital Potentiometer.
  2. Upload this new code to your Arduino that allows the SpikeRecorder software to talk to the Digital Potential
  3.  Run our new SpikeRecorder Software Prototype

This is an active research project, so let us know if you have any questions or ideas.