DIY Neuroscience Hack Chat

Brain hacking and neuroengineering for the home gamer

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Timothy Marzullo will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, February 24 at noon Pacific.

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Watch a film about a mad scientist from the golden age of Hollywood and chances are good that among the other set pieces, you'll see human brains floating in jars of cloudy fluid wired up to electrodes and fancy machines. It's all made up, of course, but tropes work because they're based on a kernel of truth, and we in the audience know that our brains and the other parts of our nervous system do indeed work on electricity. Or more precisely, excitable tissues in our nervous systems pass electrochemical signals between themselves as waves of potential across cell membranes.

Studying this electrical world locked away inside our heads is a challenging, but by no means impossible, pursuit. Usable signals can be picked up, amplified, digitized, and recorded to help us understand what's going on when we think, feel, move, sleep, wake, or just be. Neuroscience has made tremendous strides looking at these signals, but the equipment to do so has largely remained the province of large universities and teaching hospitals with ample budgets, leaving the amateur neuroscientist out of luck.

Tim Marzullo, co-founder of Backyard Brains, is looking to change all that. While working on his Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Michigan, he and Greg Gage looked for ways to make the tools of neuroscience research affordable to everyone. The result is the Neuron SpikerBox, a low-cost bioamplifier that can tap into the "spikes" of action potential in live neurons. Open-source tools like these have helped educators bring neuroscience experiments to STEM students, and even helped other scientists set up novel, low-cost experiments.

Tim will join us on the Hack Chat to talk about doing DIY neuroscience and designing the instruments that make it possible. Bring your "mad scientist" questions as we push back the veil of ignorance on how our brains work, one neuron at a time.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney17 hours ago 0 comments

    Tim11:59 AM
    Hi Dan! Great to be here.

    Hi Tim, let's get started. Welcome to the Hack Chat everyone, I'm Dan and I'll be moderating along with @Dusan Petrovic today. We're pleased to welcome Tim Marzullo from Backyard Brains today to talk about DIY neuroscience. Hope everyone brought a brain to hack ;-)

    Tim, can you tell us a little about your background?

    Dusan Petrovic12:00 PM
    Hi Dan, welcome everyone!

    Tim12:01 PM
    Hi everyone! I am Tim Marzullo, co-founder and scientists at Backyard Brains.

    Giovanni Gunawan joined the room.12:01 PM

    Tim12:01 PM
    I have an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin.

    Preston joined the room.12:02 PM

    Tim12:02 PM
    and my doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Michigan. I studied the electrical impulses of brain neurons in rats in a Neural Engineering lab specializing in electrode design

    Tim12:02 PM
    But I come from a background of high school teachers - my parents and grandparents have old told high school

    Tim12:03 PM
    So I was interested in bringing the technology we were using in graduate school into the high school.

    Tim12:03 PM
    I approached my labmate Greg Greg about this, and Backyard Brains was born

    thibaud.silvestre joined the room.12:03 PM

    Tim12:03 PM
    I consider myself a decent prototype engineer.

    Tim12:04 PM
    In my spare time I like to bike ride and ride.

    Tim12:04 PM
    I am pretty active in the USA, South Korea, and Chile.

    Tim12:05 PM
    That's me a couple years ago biking in the Andes

    Chuck Malloch joined the room.12:05 PM

    Riddha Manna joined the room.12:05 PM

    Tim12:06 PM
    and here's a drawing of some of our inventions

    Kai joined the room.12:07 PM

    Not seeing the pix -- are you using the Image button below the chat window?

    Tim12:07 PM

    Tim12:07 PM
    it's just slow uploading

    Ah, sorry. Cool drawings -- look almost hand-colored

    Tim12:08 PM

    Tim12:08 PM
    yep, they are!

    anfractuosity12:08 PM
    nice drawings :) when you talk about electrode design out of interest do you mean probing individual neurons? would that be a matrix of electrodes then?

    Juan Carlos Jimenez12:09 PM
    Hi @Tim !

    Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

    I'm a big fan of backyard brains; got the BYB Toolbox a while ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed going through some of the experiments.

    Still looking for a cockroach to cyborg-ize, though :P

    Tim12:10 PM
    Using photolithography to make silicon arrays with multiple electrode sites on them.

    Tim12:10 PM
    The lab spun off into a company now.

    Tim12:10 PM



    The global leader in neural probes, systems, and custom neural interface solutions. NeuroNexus products are used to advance neuroscience in nearly 1,000 institutions, in 50 countries.

    Read this on NeuroNexus

    Tim12:11 PM

    anfractuosity12:11 PM
    cheers, that sounds really interesting, not heard of that approach before

    Tim12:11 PM
    Great to hear @Juan Carlos Jimenez

    I remember the electrophysiology labs in my old day job, they did a lot of patch-clamp experiments looking at ion flux across membranes through a very fine micropipette. Are experiments like that doable for the DIYer?

    Tim12:12 PM
    The photo above is a two day Neural Engineering workshop I ran at a high school in the southern part of the Republic of Korea

    Tim12:12 PM
    We studied hearts, muscles, brains, and plant electricity

    Tim12:12 PM
    Doing the patch clamp experiments is a dream for Backyard Brains

    Tim12:13 PM
    as many high school teachers have asked us to make a DIY replica of the classic Hodgkin/Huxley squid experiments

    Tim12:13 PM
    but we would need to develop the suction electrode and the voltage clamp amplifier

    Tim12:14 PM
    something we have not done yet

    stupidtrash4512:14 PM
    Very difficult to transport pipettes which are that fine I expect

    Tim12:15 PM
    Yes you often handmake them in the laboratory

    I remember the setups for those rigs were pretty complex. They even did them in a Faraday cage. Just pulling the micropipette might be hard for the...

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marazm wrote 4 days ago point

where is my implant!

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hakim tahi wrote 4 days ago point

how about the process detection of autism

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