Deciphering how the brain functions remains one of the great challenges remaining to humanity, intriguing scientificprofessionalsandthepublicequally.Thenotoriouscomplexityofthenervoussystemresultsinneural diseasesremainingwidespreadanddifficulttotreat.Toolsforstudyingthebrainareoftendifficulttouseand only available to graduate students and scientists in large research universities. Providing accessible neuroscience research tools and educational equipment for high schools will accelerate neuroscience innovation by exposing future scientists, engineers, and doctors to principles of nervous system function at muchearlierstagesintheircareers.Implementingelectrophysiologyandotherneurosciencetechniquesinto K12 education has historically been difficult to the lack of affordable tools combined with compelling and accessiblelearningmaterials. To address this need, we are developing a neuroscience curriculum based on graduatelevel neuroscience researchtoolsthatcanbeusedintheHighSchoolClassroom. 1) The?SpikerBox?:afamilyofbioamplifiersthatareeasytouse,inexpensive(<$100),portable,andcan detect and record the action potentials of the nervous system of invertebrates, action potentials of humanmuscles(EMG),theelectricalsignatureoftheheart(EKG),andtheelectricaloscillationsofthe humanbrain(EEG). 2) The?RoboRoach?:awirelessneuralstimulatorforinvestigatinginsectbehavior. 3) The?OptoStimmer?:afullyportablemobilephonebasedminiaturemicroscopeandelectrophysiology apparatusenablingoptogeneticexperimentsinfruitfliesinhighschoolclassrooms. 4) The ?SpikerShield?: a human interface toolkit that allows students to connect their bodies? electrical signals(frommuscles,heart,eyes,andbrain)intocreativeengineeringteamprojectssuchasrobotic grippers,computermice,musicalinstruments,videogameinterfaces,andprostheticmodels. 5) A Comprehensive student neuroscience text and Teacher manual that focuses on problembased instructionalneuroscienceunits,withguidanceformanagingaproblembasedclassroom. Asneuroscienceisamultidisciplinaryfieldencompassingbiology,medicine,mathematics,andengineering, theeducationaltoolsandmaterialstobedevelopedherewillimprovelearninginSTEMrelateddisciplinesand inspirethenextgenerationofscientists,engineers,andphysicians.

Public Health Relevance

BackyardBrainswillcommercializeaneurosciencecurriculumbasedonelectrophysiologytools,detailedtext, andsoftwaretoallowsecondaryschoolstudentstoinvestigatethelivingnervoussystemsofhumansand insectsintheclassroom.Studentswillbeabletononinvasivelyexperimentwithhumanelectrophysiological signals(brain,nerves,muscles,eyes,etc.),buildengineeringinterfaceswiththesesignalstocontrolrobots andothermachines,andalsoinvestigateindividualneuronsininsects.Byallowing612thgradestudentsto dowhatwaspreviouslyonlyavailableinadvanceduniversities,weaimtoinspirethenextgenerationof scientists,physicians,andengineersaswellasacceleratefundamentalneuroscienceresearch.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase II (R44)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Grabb, Margaret C
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Backyard Brains, Inc.
Ann Arbor
United States
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