Neuroscience at Home
By Greg Gage
The human brain has more than 100 billion cells called neurons. These cells allow us to sense and communicate with the outside world. They are also responsible for neurological diseases that will affect one out five of us, yet we still don’t have cures. While you may often read about the brain, do you actually know how it works? Chances are you haven’t studied neuroscience directly.
Studying the brain is difficult to do. The brain activity is electrical and chemical and therefore can be understood only while the brain tissue is still alive. The brain is quite different from other organs, such as the heart, which is a muscle. You could look at a plastic model of the heart to understand how it functions (it is a pump), but a plastic model of the brain doesn’t tell you anything about how it works. In mammals, the brain is protected by a thick skull, which makes getting to it quite difficult. And even if you could get to it easily, the equipment to measure the brain’s electricity typically cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could explore the wonders of the brain by doing neuroscience experiments in your own home? This article will show you how to do just that! By using kits you can build yourself, some insects from around your house, and your smartphone, iPad, or a computer, you will be able to understand many of the basic principles of how neurons encode information. (more…)