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The 2017 Summer Fellowship Concludes

Over 11 sunny Ann Arbor weeks, our research fellows worked hard to answer their research questions. They developed novel methodologies, programmed complex computer vision and data processing systems, and compiled their experimental data for poster, and perhaps even journal, publication. But, alas and alack… all good things must come to an end. Fortunately, in research, the end of one project is often the beginning of the next!

Some of the fellows intend to continue working with on the research they began here while they’re away and many of these projects will be continued next summer! Definitely expect to hear updates from Nathan’s EEG Visual Decoding project and Joud’s Sleep Memory project. Additionally, two of the projects will continue throughout the next few months: Zach’s Songbird Identification and Shreya’s Electric Fish Detector projects will continue through to December!

Meet the Fellows, See the Projects

The fellows are off to a great start! Check out their blog posts introducing their projects:


 The team has been working hard to bring their projects to life. Check out these blog posts on their rig construction and data collection efforts!


Our fellows experience the peaks and valleys of research this summer, but they all came out on top! Check out their final posts for their results, posters, and other details!


A few of our fellows are staying on throughout this next semester for longer term development projects! Zach is going to be back to working with his team on the Songbird Identification Device project, and Shreya will be working through to December on the Electric Fish Detector project. Expect updates on their progress from them soon!

BYB Fellows Present at Research Symposium

The Fellows! Missing: Ilya and Nathan, they already had started presenting!

Today our Summer Research Fellows “snuck in” and presented their summer work at a University of Michigan, Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) symposium! Over the two sessions our fellows presented their work and rigs to judges, other students, to university faculty, and community members. Some of the fellows are seasoned poster designers, but others had to learn quickly as they all rushed to get their posters printed in time! As our motto goes, we think it’s a shame that science is locked up in labs, and we pride ourselves on being able to take our DIY rigs wherever we go, so of course we encouraged the fellows to bring as much of their rigs as possible to show off in person. Science is much cooler when you can hold and see it in person.

Poster presentations are close to our heart here at Backyard Brains… You might be surprised that our company started out as a poster presentation! The “$100 Spike!” was the poster which launched a thousand ships. Our founders Tim and Greg developed the original SpikerBox as a passion project and presented it at a “Society for Neuroscience Conference” poster session. They pinned up their poster, tacked a hundred dollar bill to the board, and showed everyone who would listen to live action potentials on their first-generation SpikerBox. People expressed interest in purchasing the SpikerBox and Backyard Brains was born!

We’re proud to see our fellows continuing the tradition of creating affordable, DIY neuroscience experiments. Check out the photos and posters below, and be on the lookout for more blog posts from our fellows as they finish their write ups!



Shreya’s Electric Fish Detector

Hi, the electric fish project is going swimmingly! I designed a bandpass filter circuit with cut-off frequencies = 159.155 Hz and 15.9155 kHz to remove unwanted noise from the recorded electric organ discharges (collected using electrodes placed close to the elephant nose fish inside the fish tank), and an amplifier with a gain of around 20 to amplify the signal. I had to adjust the gain and supply voltages so that the voltage level of the signal input to the Arduino doesn’t exceed its voltage limit. The Arduino converts the analog input signal to digital using its 12 bit ADC (analog to digital converter) and detects “spikes” when the value read differs from the average by 100 ADC units or more. Here’s the first spike I recorded on the SD card-

This is the electrode I used to record EODs from the fish-

It’s easy to make- just wind 3 pieces of wire at equal distances on a long plastic stick and connect the 3 wires to an audio jack that can be connected to the rest of the circuit. Here’s a picture of the PCB, which is made in the form of an Arduino shield that works on an Arduino M0 pro-

I also observed that there is a noticeable inversion of the EOD spike when the fish turns using which we can tell which direction the fish was facing with respect to the electrode.

Next, I varied the distance of the electrode from the fish and measured the average peak to peak height of the spikes recorded.

I took 2 minute readings for each distance (taken 3 cm apart from 0 to 55 cm) and averaged the values which are plotted in the graph below. Beyond around 27 cm, the EOD spikes were too weak to be detected and were hence, not always detected, but the few that were, had a peak to peak height of around 50 to 53 ADC units tall at 55cm, and around 60 to 65 ADC units at 45cm.

The time taken to write to the SD card is around 25ms when the buffer size is 100 samples.

To improve the accuracy of detecting EOD spikes at distances greater than 30 cm, I increased the gain of the amplifier, which helped but caused the spikes to be clipped when the distance was small, like 10 to 15 cm. To overcome this problem, I made another PCB incorporating a digital potentiometer in the amplifier stage so that the gain could be varied depending on the distance of the electrode from the fish. Currently, I am testing this new board.