We almost ran out of pens at the world’s biggest neuroscience conference! This year’s Society for Neuroscience (SfN) was the first in-person meeting since 2019. And we’re really happy that it happened. Firstly, we’ve so missed the nerdy vibes of sci-comm bustle. Secondly, taking a stroll under palms in sunny San Diego feels really nice in November! Last but not least, it would have been downright impossible to sign copies of our new book online.
Because that’s right, our new book, “How Your Brain Works: Neuroscience Experiments for Everyone” written by our co-founders, Drs. Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo, has just been released by MIT Press! It’s a lengthy volume yet easy to digest, and even easier to keep open as you fiddle with electrodes, insects or your own nervous system in your classroom or home lab.
The book contains over 50 experiments you can do anywhere you want if you have one of our SpikerBoxes. But even if you don’t, you can always flex your engineering abilities and DIY one using our open-source schematics!
The classroom-ready, open-ended experiments include:
- What does our brain do when we exercise or hold our breath?
- How do our brains tell our bodies to jump, dance, or sing?
- How fast do signals travel down a neuron?
- Can we really enhance our memories during sleep?
- How does the brain get your attention?
- How do brain stimulators (used in treating Parkinson’s disease) really work?
- How long does it take the brain to decide?
- And many more!
This summer’s been a busy and buzzy season for spreading the word on DIY neuroscience! As part of the outreach activities, our crew hit Paris to attend FENS (Forum of European Neuroscience), Europe’s largest international neuroscience conference. We set up shop there and demoed the latest upgrades of our bioamplifiers. And got sore muscles from cycling along the Champs-Élysées!
The schedule was jam-packed with sci-comm activities, with over 7,500 fellow neuroscientists, graduate and doctoral students as well as teachers partaking in scientific symposia, poster presentations, workshops, mini conferences. (Hanging out, caffeinating and exchanging ideas with other nerdy folks at the rooftop terrace was also a huge part of it, especially in the mornings and evenings.)
Our booth was one of the liveliest spots. For who doesn’t itch to get a taste of a powerful brain-computer interface packed up into a couple of little orange boxes made world-famous by TED?
Or to engage in a cyborgian cup stacking contest using our robotic arm called The Claw…
November is always a busy month at Backyard Brains, and this year was no exception! We expanded our conference tour to four conferences across two continents, from California, USA to Belgrade, Serbia.We did thousands of demos for new customers and promoted nearly 10 new products coming to BYB in 2019. Here are some tidbits about our domestic endeavors.
SFN: Society for Neuroscience Conference
The Society for Neuroscience Conference is our annual Big Event. We’ve been going for years and always have BYB members from all over the world converge to give demos and sell our wares. We like to brag that we have the most interactive exhibit at SFN, and we think our attendees would agree!
As we continue our work to make neuroscience accessible, we are finding that there is a surprising lack of opportunity for many undergraduate students to do hands-on neuroscience labs. SFN is a great opportunity to meet with Professors and undergraduate instructors are looking for affordable ways for their undergrads to begin performing meaningful labs and research. For fractions of the cost of a single “research grade” rack, professors can outfit their labs with electrophysiology gear for every student! Not only that, but many undergrad and graduate students are similarly looking for tools which can empower their neuroscience outreach efforts, and are excited to discover us as they wander the exhibit hall at SFN.
Perhaps the quickest Demo to Classroom conversion ever – On the 4th, we demoed the Human-Human to the NW Noggin team. They bought one on the spot, and then on the 5th, they demoed it to hundreds of elementary schoolers! They came back on the 6th to ask for more electrodes. We eagerly stuffed their bags! Welcome to the Neurorevolution, NW Noggin!
NABT: National Association of Biology Teachers Conference
This year, we did a week-long conference binge! As soon as we put a wrap on SFN, we packed our bags, moved to a different San Diego hotel, and set up for our second weekend conference! We had the opportunity to meet up with Biology teachers from all across the country at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference (What a mouthful, we’re thankful for acronyms) or NABT.
Biology teachers are our people. There is a great deal of neuroscience in the General/Honors track biology curriculum, as students learn about the nervous systems of vertebrates and invertebrates. Biology teachers are also some of the most hands-on teachers we know. No other required classes have such an emphasis on hands-on learning, making BYB and Bio a natural fit.
CSTA: California Science Teachers Association Conference
One last break from winter in the midwest for Will — the California Science Teachers’ Association recently hosted their annual conference in sunny Pasadena. Will made the trip solo to introduce science educators from all across the great state of California to the exciting world of hands-on neuroscience. His message was Backyard Brain’s message: Neuroscience is the perfect blend of STEM and the Life Sciences, showing students the fascinating intersection of all the different disciplines they are studying.
We’re pushing onwards and finishing 2018 with a bang! We look forward to where our conference tour will take us next year. Have somewhere you think we should visit? Give us a shout on Twitter or email us at email@example.com!