January 11th, 2013
10:54 AM ET

Insane Membranes

Written By Heather M. Higgins, CNN
Video Edited By Nina Raja, CNN

A video of rainbow-pigmented cells opening and closing to the deep bass beats of an iconic 1990s rap hit has 2.1 million views on YouTube - all because a Michigan-based neuroscientist is using it to teach a new generation of young people about the brain.

“If you have an idea that involves the nervous system and electricity you can do that with very, very cheap parts – that’s the insight,” said Alex Wiltschko, a PhD student at Harvard University.  “So you can clip a wire onto a squid and pump in Cypress Hill into this squid’s membrane and see its colors react, see the chromatophores open and close to the music.”

The science behind this phenomenon is explained by Greg Gage, the co-founder of Backyard Brains, the company he created to democratize neuroscience education.

“The reason why it’s dancing to the music is that at that frequency, the low frequencies have long wave forms. Those long wave forms allow current to pass by, which causes an action potential, which causes the muscles inside the chromatophores to open for that brief moment of time,” Gage said.

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