Backyard Brains Homebrew Ephys Rigs

6 08 2010

News of a cool new toy comes from a colleague’s recent trip out to the MBL @ Woods Hole.  It is the perfect gift to spark the curiosity of a budding young (or old) neuroscientist. Backyard Brains makes the world’s best value electrophysiology rigs. The SpikerBox comes pre-assembled for $100 or build your own from a bunch of parts for $50.

These rigs are surprisingly powerful. You can go out in the yard, catch a bug (or buy a cockroach), strap one on and start recording neuromuscular potentials. The box interfaces with gorgeous iPhone/iPad so you can hear, see and record the action potentials. They don’t make a big point of this, but you can also wire it up so that the piezo-speaker can drive an electrical stimulator of the cockroach’s leg. You can make the leg twitch to whatever signal input you give it. The educational possibilities of this gear is really limitless.



3 responses

7 09 2010
Bill Connelly

Yeah, I saw that thing as SFN a year ago I think. It generated a lot of excitement. They had it hooked up to an iPhone for visualization. It was great. I nearly bought one then and there.

27 06 2011

1. why do they need to freeze the insect before removing the leg?
2. how come the leg generates some activity – isn’t it dead? Where does it take the energy from?

6 03 2012
A. B.

How charming. Never too early to get a young scientist used to tormenting animals. It’ll stand him in good stead later when they let him loose on his first monkey.

(Re above questions – dead is a relative concept; probably there’s some fuel (ATP) left in the muscles, so the leg is still workable until that runs out whether or not the cockroach is attached to it. Freezing the cockroach keeps it still; they may also be hoping it’ll be unconscious. I hope so.)

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