Every year in late March, scientists across the world band together to participate in Brain Awareness week, an extended event created by The Society for Neuroscience and Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives to expose kids to neuroscience research. It is a week-long celebration of the brain, really, with participants ranging from universities to government agencies in over 120 countries! Here at Backyard Brains, we are all about hands-on neuroscience education, so we’ve put together a list of some of our Greatest Hits experiments to spice up your week!
There are a lot of typical experiments used as a go-to for talking about the brain and introducing kids to thinking about it, like looking at cross-sections of sheep brains or listening to a talk on neurons, but what if you don’t have any sheep brains on hand? We have found that the best way to get kids excited about the brain is to get them into really interactive experiments, ones where they can move things and see reactions in real time, and this is the basis of our Muscle/Neuroengineering line of products.
At Backyard Brains, we are always striving to make neuroscience accessible, and our demonstrations are some of the best ways to do that! Often when we are at conferences, we call on civilians approaching our booth to help us out as we showcase a new experiment, proving that neuroscience is truly for everyone. Here are some experiments that we have noticed are some of the biggest crowd-pleasers.
The Backyard Brains Claw Bundle is the latest in our line of Muscle SpikerShield products! This kit comes with everything you need to begin experimenting with your first brain-machine interface. By using the electrical activity hidden within your muscles, you will learn how to control your first neuroprosthetic, the Claw!
We’ve also provided a number of established documentations and experiments in conjunction with this new release! The Claw experiment takes what you learned from our beginner neuroprosthetics experiment, the Muscle SpikerShield experiments and the Muscle Spikershield Robotic Gripper experiment and bundles it all together into a fantastic introduction to “neuroprosthetics,” a rich field of study which seeks to bring control back into the lives of people who have suffered loss of limb or severe nerve damage.
With this experiment you will learn about:
Biofeedback: Using technology to monitor and react to control previously hidden physiological functions, such as heartbeat, muscle tension, and even brain activity!
Threshold potential: How much energy does it take to flip the switch and turn on a muscle or a motor?
Muscle recruitment: The difference between a soft, gentle movement, and a strong, quick movement is how quickly and how many muscles are activated!
One famous demonstration of the potential of neuroprosthetics came from the University of Pittsburgh Motorlab. These researchers implanted electrodes into a monkey’s motor cortex, thus allowing the monkey to take control of a robotic arm. The monkey learned to use this robotic arm to feed itself.
The Claw Bundle experiment does not, obviously, involve brain surgery, however; the principles behind the technology are the same! You can however make contributions to the future of neuroprosthetics through your own DIY experiments! What else can you control? The possibilities are endless!
The Claw Bundle is available for $189.99 and comes with everything you need to perform the experiment right out of the box!