Welcome to the Backyard Brains experiments page for scientists, teachers and amateurs alike. Below you will find all of our open source experiments, lesson plans and useful information. If you're looking for a science fair project, several of our experiments come with suggestions. If you are an educator, you may be interested in what Educational Standards our lesson plans adhere too. Additionally, we list which specific standards are being met at the bottom of each lesson plan. For teachers interested in our experiments, check out our Teacher's Guides section!
Advanced Neuro-Prosthetics: Take Someone's Free Will
Use the same technology in cutting edge neuro-prosthetics to impose your will upon your friends and enemies!
Control Machines with Your Brain
You've seen your muscles' electrical activity, now it is time to harness it! Use your Muscle SpikerShield to control electronic devices with your brain-generated muscle signals.
Record & Manipulate Live Neurons!
Listen to action potentials and view spikes in real time using your SpikerBox. An excellent starting point for anyone interested in neuroscience.
The Neuron SpikerBox Pro: Conduction Velocity
How fast do Action Potentials travel? Let's use physics, electrophysiology, and an Earthworm to find out!
Record Electricity from Your Muscles!
How do your muscles work? Listen to the electrical impulses, or EMGs (electromyograms), of muscles at rest and during contraction in order to find out! All it requires is your Muscle SpikerBox. A great starter for human electrophysiology.
The Muscle SpikerBox Pro: Agonist/Antagonist Pairs
How do your muscles work together to create movement? Learn how to use the Muscle SpikerBox Pro and about Agonist Antagonist muscle pairs.
Wirelessly Control a Cyborg Cockroach
Curious about microstimulation, learning, and neural interfaces? With the Roboroach, you will prepare your own cyborg cockroach to explore this cutting edge neurotechnology.
Controlling "THE CLAW" with Your Muscles
Fancy yourself a cyborg? Do you want to control a robotic claw with your muscles? Check out how to do it with your Muscle SpikerShield and Arduino.
The Plant SpikerBox: Venus Fly Trap Electrophysiology
Using the Plant SpikerBox, explore the electrical activity responsible for the rapid movement of the Venus Flytrap.
Sensitive Mimosa Electrophysiology
With the Plant SpikerBox, learn about Sensitive Mimosas, hydraulic movement, and more details on the fascinating phenomenon of plant spikes.
Advanced Plant Electrophysiology: Interspecies Plant-Plant-Communicator
The Venus Flytrap commands the Sensitive Mimosa to drop its branches; the Sensitive Mimosa obeys...
Octopus Fight Club
Learn to quantify complex behaviours into simple rules using a video camera and computer analysis. In this example: Octopus fighting patterns
Mosquito Love Songs
You will never see mosquitos the same way again after you learn about their sweet (if not annoying) love songs, and how they form bonds by performing duets.
Heart Action Potentials
Hearts have spikes too! Using the Heart & Brain SpikerShield, perform a heart rate experiment to see your own heart beat!
Yes, Eyes generate electrical signals! Using the Heart & Brain SpikerShield, you can see the movement of your eyes and also build interfaces related to blinks and eye movements... Experiment to find the optimal EOG electrode placement
DIY EEG Recordings from the Human Brain!
With our Heart & Brain SpikerShield, you can measure the electrical rhythms of your own brain and see the difference when your eyes are open vs closed.
Record A Grasshopper's Visual Reaction Time
Are you fast enough to catch a grasshopper? Record from the visual neurons which grasshoppers use to quickly dodge incoming threats!
The Leeuwenhoek Microscope and Optics Theory
Learn how to manipulate glass and build a replica of Leeuwenhoek's microscope that brought about the microbiology revolution.
How Fast Your Brain Reacts To Stimuli
What is the difference between reaction and reflex, and how fast is your reaction time? Sit someone down and record them catching falling objects to find out.
The Galvani/Volta debate
Time travel to 1792 Northern Italy and replicate the famous experiments of Galvani and Volta that began neuroscience and electronics.
The Organization of Life, Multicellularity, and Nervous Systems
In this "Big Question" theory writeup, we go over what makes up life, the types of life with nervous systems, and their comparative biology differences.
Controlling a Stepper Motor with Your Muscles
Do you want to control Motor Rotation with your muscles? Grab your Muscle SpikerShield, because we have that too!
Muscle Action Potentials
It's not only axons that carry APs. Muscles have motor unit action potentials that we can record from too.
The P300 Surprise Signal
Your brain notices the unexpected, it's called the P300 electrical deflection, and here you can measure it.
Autonomic Nervous System
Learn about your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Activate your "Flight or Flight" response with an ice water cold stimulus. Study the diving reflex!
Hunting for Single Motor Units
Enter your Zen of self-control as you try to record a single motor unit in your body.
Muscle Recruitment during Chewing
Learn about recruitment of motor neurons as you chew on snacky snacks of different hardness.
Patellar Reflex and Reaction
Learn about the difference between spinal and cerebral circuits as you examine the famous patellar reflex of your friends.
Learn about advanced signal analysis to control individual fingers of an external robotic hand with your own hand.
Neuropharmacology: Effect of Nicotine and MSG on Neurons
In our Anuradha Rao Memorial Experiment, we move to the cricket cercal preparation to investigate neuropharmacology
EMGs during Muscle Fatigue
If you are wondering why your muscles become weaker during intense exercise, this muscle fatigue lab is for you.
How do neurons encode information? One way is through rate coding-Learn more with your Neuron SpikerBox.
Sensory and Neural Adaptation
By manipulating the barbs on the cockroach leg, you can measure neural adaptation times and gain insight into learning.
Make your own Homunculus
Visualize how your somatosensory (touch) cortex sensitivity varies over certain areas of your body. You will look weird. Promise.
Debunking the P-value with Statistics
Are people faster with their dominant or non dominant hand? What about left handed versus right handed people? Collect your favorite sample data set and you will be on your way to rejecting that null hypothesis!
Controlling an LCD Screen with Your Muscles
Do you want to control an LCD screen with your muscles? With the Muscle SpikerShield, we can do that!
The Dancing Cockroach Leg: Microstimulation of Neurons and Muscles
It's the 1780's all over again. Investigate excitability of nervous and muscle tissue using the Neuron SpikerBox
Turn your Cell Phone into a Powerful Microscope!
Your phone's camera isn't just for selfies anymore, with the Roachscope you can use it to view the microscopic world. Tell cells to say cheese as you look at them up close and personal with the high power (100x) attachment.
How Fast can Your Body React?
Utilizing different light and sound triggers, your EMG signal, and the Reaction Timer, you can study how quickly your brain processes events!
In Search of the Spike
We have been trying for 235 years to see the neural impulse. Read the gripping, action(potential) filled story here.
Effect of Nerve Stretch on Conduction Velocity
Using the 2-Channel SpikerBox and harmlessly stretching a worm, you can learn the effect of diameter on various cable properties of neurons.
Exploring RMS and Rates of Fatigue
In this muscle fatigue lab, you will learn about how quickly your muscles lose strength!
Cellular Microscopy: Blood Cells
With our RoachScope, you can look at the blood cells that work tirelessly to keep us alive!
Which direction is the cube facing? Your perception can change, and you can now measure it.
Comparing Speeds of Two Nerve Fiber Sizes
Grab your 2-Channel Neuron SpikerBox to learn about cable theory and the different speeds of two nerve systems in the worm.
Effect of Temperature on Neurons
investigate the effect of temperature on the firing rate of neurons
Referencing your Spikes
There's no such thing as a perfect ground, but some grounds are better than others, depending on what you are studying.
What if we fed the neural activity of one cockroach leg into another? Neural Engineering 101 in session.
The Faraday Cage
A simple piece of metal screening can drastically reduce electrical noise. But how does it work?
How does the SpikerBox actually amplify spikes? Here we dive into the properties of a wonderful invention: the transistor.
Transistor Circuit Design
Even more information on Engineering's Holy Grail - Build a simple bio-amp with two transistors.
Effect of Temperature on Conduction Velocity
Measure how temperature affects neural speed in a worm.
How Your Eye Detects Color and Motion
What are the limits of color and motion detection by your eye? You can measure it with a friend.