Tag Archives: apparatus

Open source neurophysiology kit

TED, a conference famous for freely sharing their talks, launched an initiative this year to share online lessons: TedEd. The idea of TedEd is to pair gifted educators with inspiring animators to produce short lessons on subjects designed to engage school-children.

As with all TED videos, these are free to share under the Creative Commons license.

The first TedEd talk introduced the SpikerBox, an open source neural recording kit, specifically designed to give students a hands-on experience with neural recording. In this case, recording the neural activity in the legs of cockroaches:


The SpikerBox is a product of BackyardBrains, founded by Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo, joined by an enthusiastic group of fellow developers.

The SpikerBox comes either pre-assembled, or in kit form, and allows for easy recording of neural activity using Audacity (open source software for recording audio). The SpikerBox can also be hooked up to a free iPhone/iPod app, and there is also an android version. The newer EMG SpikerBox (EMG=ElectroMyoGram) enables users to measure the electrical activity of their own muscles.

The Backyard Brains wiki includes a number of experiments that can be conducted with the SpikerBox, as well as a library of raw spike recordings that you can analyse, plus tools for data analysis. Intriguingly, they have also opened up their finances for all to inspect.

Three other Backyard Brains devices are in beta: a platform to turn a smartphone into a microscope (SmartScope), a device to (briefly) control the left right movements of a cockroach (RoboRoach), and a Micromanipulator for precisely placing electrodes in a cockroach brain.

BackyardBrains are currently developing a module for the EMG Spikerbox which will measure reaction time in humans using muscle contractions.

What other intriguing hardware have you seen emerging in the DIY cognitive experiment space?

(For instance, Chip Epstein makes an interesting entry into the open source neuroscience space, with a set of plans for Homebrew Do-it-yourself EEG, EKG, and EMG.)