Deciphering how the brain functions remains one of the great challenges remaining to humanity, intriguing scientific professionals and the public equally. The notorious complexity of the nervous system results in neural diseases remaining widespread and difficult to treat. Tools for studying the brain are often difficult to use and 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 much earlier stages in their careers. Implementing electrophysiology and other neuroscience techniques into K12 education has historically been difficult to the lack of affordable tools combined with compelling and accessible learning materials. To address this need, we are developing a neuroscience curriculum based on graduatelevel neuroscience research tools that can be used in the High School Classroom. 1) The ?SpikerBox?: a family of bioamplifiers that are easytouse, inexpensive (<$100), portable, and can detect and record the action potentials of the nervous system of invertebrates, action potentials of human muscles (EMG), the electrical signature of the heart (EKG), and the electrical oscillations of the human brain (EEG). 2) The ?RoboRoach?: a wireless neural stimulator for investigating insect behavior. 3) The ?OptoStimmer?: a fully portable mobile phone based miniature microscope and electrophysiology apparatus enabling optogenetic experiments in fruit flies in high school classrooms. 4) The ?SpikerShield?: a human interface toolkit that allows students to connect their bodies? electrical signals (from muscles, heart, eyes, and brain) into creative engineering team projects such as robotic grippers, computer mice, musical instruments, video game interfaces, and prosthetic models. 5) A Comprehensive student neuroscience text and Teacher manual that focuses on problembased instructional neuroscience units, with guidance for managing a problembased classroom. As neuroscience is a multidisciplinary field encompassing biology, medicine, mathematics, and engineering, the educational tools and materials to be developed here will improve learning in STEMrelated disciplines and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and physicians.

Public Health Relevance

Backyard Brains will commercialize a neuroscience curriculum based on electrophysiology tools, detailed text, and software to allow secondary school students to investigate the living nervous systems of humans and insects in the classroom. Students will be able to noninvasively experiment with human electrophysiological signals (brain, nerves, muscles, eyes, etc.), build engineering interfaces with these signals to control robots and other machines, and also investigate individual neurons in insects. By allowing 612th grade students to do what was previously only available in advanced universities, we aim to inspire the next generation of scientists, physicians, and engineers as well as accelerate fundamental neuroscience research.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase II (R44)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Program Officer
Grabb, Margaret C
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Backyard Brains, Inc.
Ann Arbor
United States
Zip Code
Marzullo, Timothy C (2017) The Missing Manuscript of Dr. Jose Delgado's Radio Controlled Bulls. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ 15:R29-R35
Nuñez, Isaac; Matute, Tamara; Herrera, Roberto et al. (2017) Low cost and open source multi-fluorescence imaging system for teaching and research in biology and bioengineering. PLoS One 12:e0187163
Nguyen, Dieu My T; Roper, Mark; Mircic, Stanislav et al. (2017) Grasshopper DCMD: An Undergraduate Electrophysiology Lab for Investigating Single-Unit Responses to Behaviorally-Relevant Stimuli. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ 15:A162-A173
Marzullo, Timothy C (2016) Leg Regrowth in Blaberus discoidalis (Discoid Cockroach) following Limb Autotomy versus Limb Severance and Relevance to Neurophysiology Experiments. PLoS One 11:e0146778
Baden, Tom; Chagas, Andre Maia; Gage, Gregory J et al. (2015) Open Labware: 3-D printing your own lab equipment. PLoS Biol 13:e1002086
Baden, Tom; Chagas, Andre Maia; Gage, Gregory J et al. (2015) Correction: open labware: 3-d printing your own lab equipment. PLoS Biol 13:e1002175
Shannon, Kyle M; Gage, Gregory J; Jankovic, Aleksandra et al. (2014) Portable conduction velocity experiments using earthworms for the college and high school neuroscience teaching laboratory. Adv Physiol Educ 38:62-70
Dagda, Ruben K; Thalhauser, Rachael M; Dagda, Raul et al. (2013) Using crickets to introduce neurophysiology to early undergraduate students. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ 12:A66-74
Marzullo, Timothy C; Gage, Gregory J (2012) The SpikerBox: a low cost, open-source bioamplifier for increasing public participation in neuroscience inquiry. PLoS One 7:e30837