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Neuroscience for Everyone!

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Apply Now for IEEE Brain Virtual Summer School – YaIEEE!

A two-week online course on neural engineering spruced up with some signal processing and machine learning – is there a better way to spend two weeks of August? Plus, you’ll tinker with a BYB Heart and Brain SpikerBox – and you’ll get to keep it too! Full details here.

If you’re as hyped up about FREE neuroscience education opportunities as we are, you’ll want to know that this course will teach you:

  • Neurophysiology and brain organization
  • Brain data acquisition and signal processing
  • Basic and advanced neural coding using machine learning

All lectures are conveniently divided into AM and PM sessions, so your brain can have some me-time in between studying – why, the brain of course!

Best of all, it’s not just theorizing but a great deal of hands-on experience, thanks to our little pal SpikerBox. Since the course will be held online in the best tradition of social distancing, you are welcome to apply from anywhere in the world!

Are There Any Prerequisites?

When we say that neuroscience is for everyone, we really mean it. But this is an advanced course, so if you want to have a really great time, you do need some basic programming knowledge (Matlab and/or Python, as always). And, of course, knowing your way around linear algebra, calculus and probability is a big yaIEEE.

Kudos to the people who kindly made it possible, José C. Príncipe from University of Florida and Yiwen Wang from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The application deadline of 17th July is nigh and only 20 lucky students will get to enroll, so you’d better hurry!

While at it, be sure to check out the IEEE Brain Initiative treasure trove of resources on neuroscience, including their phenomenal podcast, webinars, TED Talks, and more.


Educators get Hype for DIY EEG (Brain Recordings!)

Take it from Twitter: Low-cost EEG is a powerful teaching tool!

As a business, it can be strange to package and ship off all these different neuroscience education tools, wondering if they’ll like their new home, will they make a difference in this big, strange world?

Much like a proud parent, we are always excited when we see tweets and testimonials like this one from an international user in Ireland, preparing to use one of our DIY EEG devices for neuroscience outreach!

Not just that, but it inspired a fun follow-up conversation amongst other Twitter users:

We’ve got history, humor, and enthusiastic recommendations all in one!

Brief History of EEG

What John and Mark are referencing is Hans Berger’s pioneering work in brain recordings, the results of which were published in 1929: see the publication here in its full, German language glory!

Wikipedia provides a nice summary of this original experiment:

His method involved inserting silver wires under the patient’s scalp, one at the front of the head and one at the back. Later he used silver foil electrodes attached to the head by a rubber bandage. As a recording device, he first used the Lippmann’s capillary electrometer, but results were disappointing. He then switched to the string galvanometer and later to a double-coil Siemens recording galvanometer, which allowed him to record electrical voltages as small as one ten thousandths of a volt. The resulting output, up to three seconds in duration, was then photographed by an assistant.

The original recording from that string galvanometer is pictured in John Butler’s tweet!

Fortunately, 90 years has advanced technology considerably, allowing us to perform the same experiment and view the same results with our non-invasive EEG Sweatband!

Much less intimidating than inserting silver wires under the scalp!

The Tools to Make it Possible

Bring this EEG experiment and demonstration to your classroom!

Heart and Brain SpikerBox ($150):

Record from your Heart, your Brain, and even your Eyes… EEG, EKG, and EOG allow us to study more complex electrical systems that are responsible for nearly everything that makes us human.

Experiments:


Taiwanese Student Organizes Outreach

Neuroscience has a way of inspiring people from all walks of life. After all, we all have brains, no matter where we come from! This story comes to us from Taiwan, where Chiao-chi,Chou studies, a 21-year-old student and interactive installation artist in the Department of Communications Design of Shih Chien University. Chiao-chi discovered our products earlier this year, and they inspired her to create her own projects based on our Plant SpikerBox. She contacted us with a proposal to lead a workshop in a neighboring town in early November, teaching primary school children about the science of plant motion.

Chiao-chi grew up in an out-of-the-way village in central Taiwan, where her parents did plant research in the mountains. The educational resources there were relatively scarce, and when she found out about Backyard Brains, she immediately knew it was something she would’ve loved as a child: “Maybe I can go back to my elementary school to hold a workshop for bringing new knowledge to other children, like Backyard Brains bringing to me,” she thought, and started work on her project. “It is very meaningful for me to have this opportunity to bring educational resources home.”

Our Plant SpikerBox is one of the more interesting aspects of our collection, as the organism it works on doesn’t actually have a brain, but some plants move in response to stimulus the way that our bodies do. For her research, Chiao-chi expanded on the open-source nature of our design, “intend[ing] to extend the possibilities of the Plant SpikerBox. [What if] it allowed us to feel the perceptions of plant? If plant had the consciousness and how will we to perceive it? With setting various degree of bioelectrical potential patching on arm to simulate the different magnitude force press to the Mimosa, me and my partner would like to invite people to think the above questions.” Chiao-chi and her partner successfully designed, cut, and assembled their project, pictured below.

The models they created involved rock-cut wood that was assembled into two separate stereo models: one shaped like a human arm, and one like the stem of a plant, specifically the Sensitive Mimosa, both hinged at joint to mimic each other’s shape. “The arm model is controlled by two syringes to help students understand the antagonist muscle,” Chiao-chi said. “[The] mimosa model also uses the hydraulic principle to express the turgor movement.” In terms of the hardware, she built a green circuit board, modified according to the open-source circuit diagram for the Plant SpikerBox, and set up an oscilloscope on the board to allow viewers to see the waveforms of human and plant action potentials, just like the Plant SpikerBox. As seen below, the modified board was hooked up to both a plant and a person via electrodes. 

As excited as she was about her research, she wanted something else: to share her knowledge with other students. So, she proposed a plan to the local primary school teacher. She would plan and facilitate a workshop with primary school students, training a number of assistants prior to the event, and helping the students to build their own devices and do the experiment. Her proposal was eagerly accepted, and after weeks of preparation and training, the workshop occurred in early November! Eleven students were mentored through the process of building and performing experiments with her models and her designs based on the modified Plant SpikerBox. A simplified version of the one pictured above was utilized in the workshop, and students volunteered to hook themselves up to a plant and feel what happens when they stimulated it.

The event was a hit! She writes: “The workshop ended satisfactorily yesterday and the children actively participated in the event. I explained to the students the structure of muscle and mimosa in the morning, which mentions the role and difference of vacuole in animal cells and plant cells. At the stage of making the toys, we saw that they used the remaining wood to decorate the finished product. After the lunch break, we explain the basic electrical concepts and lead students to measure the micro-energy of plants. I also let the children use the modified Plant SpikerBox. [T]he children expressed their surprise at the new knowledge and complained about the bad lunch (because I ordered a lot of greens lol). All in all, we had a great time. The lovely students are also looking forward to the next event!”

Chiao-chi,Chou is currently applying to the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience of National Central University to continue her studies. We wish her all the best in her future neuroscience endeavors, and eagerly look forward to hearing about any future workshops she brings to fruition. Welcome to the NeuroRevolution, Chiao-chi,Chou, it is wonderful to have you here!

Let us know if you’d like some guidance on leading a Backyard Brains workshop in your town! Email us at hello@backyardbrains.com and pitch us some ideas! We’re always looking to spread the NeuroRevolution!