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Neuroscience Students Outfit Roboroaches

roboroach_1roboroach_2Associate Professor of Biology Lori McGrew’s neurobiology class used kits available through Backyard Brains to create cybernetic cockroaches. The students attached electrodes to the insects’ antennae. Following the surgery, students outfitted their cyborgs with Bluetooth receiver backpacks and used their phones to control input to the antennae. The stimulus mimicked the antennae touching something and caused the roaches to turn left or right, away from the input. This procedure is similar to deep brain stimulation being used to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease and other motor dysfunctions.  By using the roboroach model, students deepened their understanding of the electrical nature of neuronal signaling including the importance of signal strength and frequency. Photos can be found on the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honorary Society’s Serotonin Helix Facebook page. McGrew is the neuroscience program coordinator at Belmont.