Greg Gage, CEO of Backyard Brains


Cool Tools Show 089: Greg Gage

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Our guest this week is Greg Gage. Greg is the co-founder and CEO of Backyard Brains, a company started with Tim Marzullo as neuroscience graduate students at the University of Michigan. Greg is a published neuroscientist and engineer, and has helped develop tools, curriculum and experiments that allowed the general public to participate in neural discovery. Greg is a senior fellow at TED and the recipient of the White House Champion of Change from Barack Obama award for his commitment to citizen science.

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Show notes:

Neuron SpikerBox Bundle ($130)
“[This is] something that you use to investigate things or to do things. For example, you may wanna use the muscle SpikerBox to control things like turn the light switches out on your room. We’ve done things where in one of our TED Talks, we did the human-to-human interface. We have one person recording the EMG. That sends a command to another stimulator, which makes the other arm move at the same rate … so you can take over the freewill of another person. It’s just limited to your creativity of what you can do when you have access to these signals. What we provide are just the raw materials that give you access to that.”

Google Scholar
Google Scholar
“We use our literature archives, like scholar.google.com because there’s so much that has been forgotten in the literature … we move on so quickly and we forget there’s this entire era about anywhere between 50 and 150 years ago where a lot of cool experiments were going, and those have been quietly forgotten. We’ve been successful is rediscovering these things and bringing them back into fruition … There’s a lot of cool things that are out there.”

“An Arduino and an amplifier is really what you need [as a minimal tool set to do what we do]. …What you need is a way to access the signal. Arduino is a very beautiful way to do that. Then once you have that, then it’s all about the creativity. … What we’ve been playing around on the last few years is wrapping wires around plants and putting them into the Arduino and then recording what happens within there.”

EAGLE PCB design software
“As far as technology tools, we use the EAGLE CAD. … It’s a free software. It’s a way to design circuits. It’s a PCB layout tool, but basically if you have a number of resistors and capacitors and chips, and you wanna wire them together, it’s a way that you can slide them onto the screen and then wire them where you want them to go. Then on flip side, you can see the board and what the chips actually look like. You lay them out and then you draw where you want the traces to go. Then when you’re done, you can either print that out and make your own. It’s really changed the way we do our electronics.”