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Cockroaches… In the Dungeon! Thought You Ought to Know….

PEPPERMINT IS THE NEW VANILLA: CHANGING OLFACTORY MEMORIES THROUGH OPERANT CONDITIONING IN COCKROACHES (my working paper title, you dig it?)

Hey all, it’s Alex again! I have completed quite a bit since my previous post. If you already forgot about who I am (you monster!), I’m the intern performing the operant conditioning research on cockroaches! I’m trying to get them to favor the taste of peppermint (which they naturally dislike) over vanilla (which they naturally love). Picking up where I left off last, remember that box I laser cut? That was my testing and housing environment and it started me off on a good foot. I have run preference tests with the Americana cockroaches with mixed positive and negative results. Initially I got a lot of (more…)


Four Directions: A RoboRoach Love Story by Olivier

Hello, my name is Olivier and I am a junior in neuroscience at Michigan State University, but for the rest of the summer Ann Arbor is my home as I work on a research project as a Backyard Brains intern! My goal is to improve upon the roboroach by adding further directional control. Left and right was a good start, but it’s only halfway there! Presently the roboroach consists of an electrode placed on the cockroach that feeds to a ground wire in the thorax and two stimulation wires, one in each antenna, which can be used to electrically stimulate the cockroach to change the direction the cockroach is facing. I am attempting to changes to the device and surgery to make the cockroach move more forwards and backwards using stubby antennae-like structures called cerci. Cerci are located at posterior end of the abdomen and serve as sensors to alert the cockroach to oncoming danger, usually a predator, and initiate an escape reflex that quickly moves the cockroach out of harm’s way. Cerci do this by responding to the changes in air current.
cerci

The goal is to commandeer both cerci in order to steer the insect directly forwards or backwards (more…)


BYB Summer Camp Internships: Alex on How to Train Your Cockroach

alexb1p7

I’m Alex, a neuroscience major from the wonderful Michigan State University (GO GREEN!)**, down in Ann Arbor for the summer as an intern with Backyard Brains. I’m working to be a behavior trainer of the cockroach, Periplaneta Americana, through means of operant conditioning. What is operant conditioning? In short, operant conditioning is a way of changing a behavior through a means of reinforcement whether it is reward or punishment. **editor’s note: Go Blue! 😉

At the start of this internship I faced the initial hurdle of (more…)