SfN11: Optogenetics for the masses

Nov 10 2011 Published by under Neuroscience, Physiology, Society for Neuroscience

The Backyard Brains folks are at it again.

Presentation 22.17SU/YY91 will be on display Saturday 1:00 p.m. – Sunday 5:00 p.m. with their presentation time scheduled for Sunday. It is entitled:

The blue light special: a portable, low-cost optogenetics kit for the classroom

The abstract reads:

Optogenetics is an innovative technology for studying brain circuits, but to date the lay public has had little exposure to its potential and limited access to low-cost tools to do experiments. What if you have an interest in cutting-edge neuroscience but you aren’t near a university? What if you prefer to do science in your garage, in a truck-bed, or on a plane on a boat? What if you are a high school biology teacher who wants to keep your students abreast of the most current neurotechnology but the latest millage did not pass? We can help you! We have designed a low-cost, easy-to-build, and portable electrophysiology rig for simple optogenetics demonstrations. The rig consists of a extracellular amplifier (our SpikerBox), a 3D-printed 3-axis micromanipulator, an off-the-shelf monocular 30X microscope, a high intensity blue LED (light-emitting diode), and an LED control circuit that can be precisely controlled with a tailor-made iPhone application or simple tone generator. We have successfully used our first clunky prototype to record blue light-evoked electromyograms from channelrhodopsin-2 expressing Drosophila larvae. We plan to spend the summer refining our prototype (making it more stable, improving control of light emission) and genetic tools. We plan to begin demonstrations in high school classrooms by Fall 2011. We also have other low-cost neurotechnology inventions to show you, so come by our poster to participate in real-time peer review!

Right? RIGHT? You know you think this is cool. Go see their presentation folks, they always amuse, entertain and educate.

Update for additional reading on Backyard Brains and Marzullo and Gage
The $100 Spike
The $100 SpikerBox v1.0
Backyard Brains

2 responses so far

  • kevin. says:

    I swear to god if I get my own lab, my first rig will be a spikerbox. Hell this LED thing might be just as good or better as the thing my PI tried to build.

  • Neuromancy says:

    This is fantastic! If I wasn't pretty much already convinced that optogentics was going to have a huge effect on experimental biology/neuroscience, this would seal it. Cheap, accessible equipment is hopefully going to be a big thing too. Maybe the next generation of hackers and tinkerers after the computer generation will be biologists?

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