My son and I decided to try the Backyard Brains Spiker-box kits. We decided to try the human-machine kit and the plant-machine kit.

When the kits came we tried to find some plants to experiment with. We thought we could do an experiment documented at Backyard Brains. I finally found the Venu flytrap at a store and bought two. I was thinking that if one plant closed all of their traps, we can go on with the other one. It takes something like 24 hours before they open up again.

I realized that we probably will need more plants so I bought some seeds for both Mimosa Pudica and the Venus Flytrap so that we can grow our own plants for further experimenting in the future.

We started to put things together but we thought that it was kind of hard to keep track of all the cords and where to put them where. So we built a lab environment around them. Since we are a Lego family, this was easily accomplished.

This way we could enhance the colors for the different ports for easy access. We could also build a platform for the plant to enable the sensors to stick to the plant in an easier and better way than just putting the plastic pins in the soil next to the plants. Our first version of the lab was improved after making our first experiment since we didn’t really know what we would need until after the experiment.

Putting the sensors next to the petal was the trickiest part that took the most time. This can become much easier when we have improved the lab with a better place to put the plastic stick that has the sensor at the top.

The recording and actual triggering of the action potential in the Venus flytrap was the easiest part thanks to the kit.

The result

The first recording looks a bit weird at the end. Not sure what that was, but the spike is there in the beginning. The spike is reflecting the movement of calcium, potassium, and chloride ions in the Venus Flytrap. This is in contrast when Action Potentials of neurons and muscles fires, which is the movement of potassium and sodium. It is over a period of about three seconds, which is horribly slow in contrast to neurons and muscles (which has periods over milliseconds rather than seconds).

 

The second recording was a bit clearer I think. A slow rise starting at 4 seconds, and then a clear spike between 9-12 seconds. Not sure exactly what the slow rise was. Perhaps it is the plant becoming aware of my son starting to find the Trigger hairs inside the flytraps mouth?

Data

I converted the recording results wav-files into CSV so I could take a look at it in a different way and to further analyze patterns etc. This will need further analysis and I think some more recordings with our improved Lab environment.

Summary

Fun, engaging (especially with the building of the lab environment and a lab coat) and exciting. We learned a lot and keep us thinking about this during the rest of the day. We learn how to use microcomputers, neuroscience things and analysis of data. There are many areas of knowledge to pick up here depending on interest. All good knowledge for the future.

Things we want to further explore is

  • Where is the brain? Are spikes stronger or weaker from different parts of the plant?
  • Could we find other types of signals from the plant if we do other things to it? Like pinching a leave?
  • How would a good lab environment for the man-machine spiker-box look like?

In case you want the data:

 

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