Amateurs have a new tool for conducting simple neuroscience experiments in their own garage: the SpikerBox. As reported in the Mar. 21 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE, the SpikerBox lets users amplify and listen to neurons' electrical activity – like those in a cockroach leg or cricket torso – and is appropriate for use in middle or high school educational programs, or by amateurs.
The work was a project from Backyard Brains, a start-up company focused on developing neuroscience educational resources. In the paper, the authors, Timothy Marzullo and Gregory Gage, describe a sample experiment using a cockroach leg stuck with two needles and monitoring the electrical signals. They also provide instructions for using the SpikerBox to answer specific experimental questions, like how neurons carry information about touch, how the brain tells muscles to move, and how drugs affect neurons, and an online portal provides further instructional materials. These are just a few examples of the many ways this tool can be used.
"Our mission is to lower the barrier-to-entry for students interested in learning about the brain. We hope our manuscript finds its way into the hands of high school teachers around the world", says Dr. Marzullo.
Citation: Marzullo TC, Gage GJ (2012) The SpikerBox: A Low Cost, Open-Source BioAmplifier for Increasing Public Participation in Neuroscience Inquiry. PLoS ONE 7(3): e30837. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030837
Financial Disclosure: Support for the SpikerBox development and outreach efforts were primarily provided by the National Institutes of Mental Health Small Business Innovation Research grant #1R43MH093334-01: ''Backyard Brains: Bringing Neurophysiology into Secondary Schools'' and the Kauffman Foundation Post Doctoral Entrepreneurial Fellowship. Additional support was provided by Cell Press Anuradha Rao Memorial Travel Award, the Society for Neuroscience Next Generation Award, the SquareOne Education Network, and the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship ''Dare to Dream'' Grant. The financial support for publication in PLoS ONE was subsidized through the Kickstarter Project ''Backyard Brains: Operation Publication.'' Funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interest Statement: Authors TM and GG are both owners and employees of Backyard Brains, Inc. This does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLoS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.
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