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Neuroscience for Everyone!

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The $3,000,000 Spike! BYB Sales Milestone

Since we opened our doors in 2010 with the $100 dollar spike, we’ve been working hard to create continue developing affordable, open source neuroscience experiments and educational materials. Seven years later, we’re excited to announce that we have exceeded $3,000,000 in sales! That is more money than the total of all of our grants prior to this month! Curious where that money comes from? Well, you’re in luck, we keep open books! If you haven’t seen it before, check out our finances page. It is exciting to see the growth!

Sales by Month/Year in USD

Here are some of our stats at the time of posting…

We’ve sold 11873 SpikerBoxes

We’ve sold to 85 different countries

Our biggest customers live in California, Michigan, New York, Washington, and Florida

This milestone is important to us, not just because it helps us keep a roof over our head, but because we see every sale as an investment. Every kit sold is a shared stake in our vision to bring neuroscience education to as many people as possible. Not every student will grow up to become a neuroscientist, but we believe it is extremely important that students are introduced to the basics of neuroscience at an early age. At its essence, neuroscience is an exploration of how our bodies function and who we are, and it is a field that is full of more mysteries than answers.

Strong sales and our recent grant prove that people are excited for neuroscience education. Like the grant funding, our sales are reinvested right back into research and development. We’ve got big plans with the next few years, and we’re excited to announce them as soon as we can! So be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter.


Gift from Iran thanks to Open Source: cockroach research tools and experiments made by students

On January 1st, we received a New Year’s gift from another continent: Neuroscience tools and experiments made by a group of high school students selected from the 20 best rated schools of Iran. They were written lab reports, submitted for an interdisciplinary neuroscience competition that utilized our open source experiments with cockroaches as a resource for the kids to make their own research and inventions.We here summarize and celebrate their efforts, you can also download the original reports yourself. This is a result of our 3 year friendship with Mohsen Omrani, an Iranian neuroscientist, doing research in nearby Ontario, Canada. He acts as a community liason between the Iran Science communities and the wide network of scientists around the world (Every Iranian Neuroscientist we know seems to be a colleague of Mohsen).

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Of note is that in Iran, students choose to follow a biology route or a mathematical root when they are in the 9th grade. There was an emphasis for each team to have students with both biology background and mathematics background so they learn to be able to communicate with each other. So what then did the students investigate?

To begin, a question we often are asked is: “Why Cockroaches?” Indeed this was also asked by members of the Allameh Helli 4 High-school: they submitted the hypothesis that the cockroach is the perfect “explorer” companion for a researcher,  because of their access and survival in complicated and uncertain environments. In other words, they declare that roaches could become better tools than robots for scientists to reach unknown places. The main influences for this conclusion was the article “Line following terrestrial insect biobots” by Tahmid Latif and Alper Bozkurt .

The most remarkable thing about this competition is not that the students built their own tools for the experiments using open source resources, like schematics, code and design… but they made their own custom modifications to design different experiments from the ones we had made.

One excellent example of this is the Robo Roach version (a remote controlled cockroach)  of Alireza Farzad, Behzad Haghgoo, Amir Reza Haji Anzehaei, Aria Hassanpour, Mohammad Reza Osouli of  Allame Helli one High School.

They used an IR System to send a signal to a IR receiver circuit that’s connected to the cockroach antenna AND their cerci. We have only begun cercal stimulation, the Iranian students beat us to it! In words of the students:

“Cerci is a very sensitive organ which receives smallest movements of the air and warns the cockroach to run. We thought that cerci may have a low adaptation rate because it is directly related to its life being. By stimulating the cerci we make an illusion of danger and we make the cockroach run forward”.

Their results to this new experiment was that “ 3V potential difference is the best combination for cerci electric stimulation” and that the cockroach doesn’t adapt to the stimulation of the cerci, unlike the antennas that show strong adaptation properties.

Danial Zohourian and Amir Masoud Azadfar, from a different high school,  focused on cerci stimulation only, coming up with a very useful table of results on how fast the cockroach goes (steps/ per second) according to voltage.

Voltage Recorded Steps Steps per Second
0.5 10 steps in 7 seconds 1.42
1.0 9 steps in 3 seconds 3.00
1.5 12 steps in 4 seconds 3.00
2.0 13 steps in 3 seconds 4.33
2.5 10 steps in 5 seconds 2.00
3.0 13 steps in 4 seconds 3.25
3.5 No Respond Adapted

Interestingly, they had a different outcome than the students from Allame Helli one High School: they concluded that  best stimulation is at 2 volts, not 3, and that cercal stimulation does adapt.

So what is the correct answer?  Only that new experiments are necessary to understand why there are different results, and what improvements are important to obtain a more accurate conclusion. But as we have learned, the best experiments come from disputes between scientists that motivate each other to improve their work.

Regarding on this emphasis on possible errors to improve experiments, the writing of  students Tarannom Taghavi and Nastaran Fatemi, from Kherad high school caught our attention. They tried  to tackle the main problem of the Roboroach: the behvioral adaptation to the stimuli that controls the cockroach:  “ If we can produce the signals in it’s ganglion and send it to the cockroach, there won’t be adaptation anymore.  As we are creating the signals and sending it to its decision making  center, we might be able to take control of cockroach’s decision  making process.” They did this by recording roaches signal with a spikerbox and trying to send it back to the ganglia.

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Interpretation of the electric signal obtained from the cockroach.

 Although it wasn’t successful, coming up with this hypothesis to solve the main problem of RoboRoaches was impressively creative. And, as we noted, we really liked the focus of their paper in the mistakes that were made and how to make corrections for a future experiment: they were the only students that made emphasis on the importance of iteration, of making a lot of failed experiments that are patiently and constantly improved, before making any discovery. Thus our informal “Golden Cockroach” award goes to Tarannom Taghavi and Nastaran Fatemi.

Finally, we want to give a special mention to the only group that designed a new interface: a special cockroach treadmill  to estimate the adherence of these insects legs:

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Keep on inventing, Keep on discovering, our fellow young colleagues across the globe.

You can download the original writings here and see the competition video below