Special Feature: Using the iPad for Homeschooling
Neuroscience at Home
A close-up of single spike from a neuron is shown here. Notice the distinct down-up-down pattern. Spikes from a neuron don't change this shape or size . . . they only can change how fast they are sent out! That's how information is ent to the brain.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could explore the wonders of the brain
by doing neuroscience experiments in your own 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
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 ex-
plore 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 neu-
rons encode information.