backyard brains

Biohackers are able to control a cockroach’s brain with RoboRoach, a control circuit that tricks a cockroach moving left or right by allowing a person to control microstimulation of the antenna nerves. The kit is made by Backyard Brains. Chicago artist Brittany Ransom has hacked the control circuit to crowdsource the stimulation signals via Twitter.

Ransom set up the twitter account @TweetRoach and designated the hashtags #TweetRoachRight to coax the cockroach to turn right and #TweetRoachLeft to coax the cockroach to turn left. Ransom only allows the hashtag to be active for a short window of time, and the signal is only transmitted every thirty seconds to that the cockroach is not overstimulated. TweetRoach has 240 followers, and was last active on December 16th.

Here is an image of the actual TweetRoach during a resting period:

cockroach resting

If you want to play around with neuroscience experiementation, you can buy a RoboRoach kit for $100.

backpackEach RoboRoach kit contains an assembled RoboRoach circuit, a remote control, three batteries, three electrode sets (so that you can to implant three roaches), and one breakout cable to test neural responses from the antenna.

You must supply your own cockroaches, and you have to implant the electrode sets into the insects. Yep, you have to perform insect surgery. The Backyard Brain website offers a 13 minute YouTube video documenting the surgery. Before you order your set, we suggest watching the entire video to make sure that you can handle implanting wires into cockroaches without getting queasy.

Finally, here is the video showing the surgery required:

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