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The RoboRoach is the world's first commercially available cyborg! That's right... A real-life Insect Cyborg! Part cockroach and part machine. This is not a gimmick... just good ol' fashion neuroscience, evolution and engineering.
The Roboroach is an innovative marriage of behavioral neuroscience and neural engineering. Cockroaches use the antennas on their head to navigate the world around them. When these antennas touch a wall, the cockroach turns away from the wall. The antenna of a cockroach contains neurons that are sensitive to touch and smell.
These neurons convey information back to the brain using electricity in the form of "spikes".
The backpack we invented communicates directly to the neurons via small electrical pulses. The cockroach undergoes a short surgery (under anesthesia) in which wires are placed inside the antenna. Once it recovers, a backpack is temporarily placed on its back.
When you send the command from your mobile phone, the backpack sends pulses to the antenna, which causes the neurons to fire, which causes the roach to think there is a wall on one side. The result? The roach turns! Microstimulation is the same neurotechnology that is used to treat Parkinson's Disease and is also used in Cochlear Implants.
What will I learn from the RoboRoach?
This product is not a toy, but a tool to learn about how our brains work. Using the RoboRoach, you will be able to discover a number of interesting things about nature:
Neural control of Behaviour: First and foremost you will see in real-time how the brain respondes to sensory stimuli.
Learning and Memory: After a few minutes the cockroach will stop responding to the RoboRaoch microstimulation. Why? The brain learns and adapts. That is what brains are designed to do. You can measure the time to adaptation for various stimulation frequencies.
Adaptation and Habituation: After placing the cockroach back in its homecage, how long does it take for him to respond again? Does he adapt to the stimuli more quickly?
Stimuli Selection: What range of frequencies works for causing neurons to fire? With this tool, you will be able to select the range of stimulation to see what works best for your prep. Is it the same that is used by medical doctors stimulating human neurons? You will find out.
Effect of Randomness: For the first time ever... we will be adding a "random" mode to our stimulus patterns. We, as humans, can adapt easily to periodic noises (the hum a refrigerator can be ignored, for example). So perhaps the reason for adaptation is our stimulus is periodic. Now you can select random mode and see if the RoboRoach adapts as quickly.. or at all!
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