Lesson Plans

Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience – SpikerBox: Listening in on the Neural Activity of Cockroaches

Created by : 
University of Washington

In this lab, students will investigate if cayenne pepper extract affects the electrical communication in the cockroach nervous system. They will use a SpikerBox, a “bioamplifier” that allows them to hear the spikes (action potentials) of live neurons in a cockroach leg. This lesson is part of the Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience Series.

What’s In the Lesson Plan: 

  • Teacher instruction guide
  • Student handouts
  • Laboratory instructions
  • Extensions and additional resources

Grade Level(s): 


Student Skills Targeted: 

  • Understanding that neurons communicate using neurotransmitters and action potentials that can be seen/heard in a cockroach leg
  • Understanding that some plants can effect electrical communication
  • Understanding that neurons communicate using electrical and chemical signals
  • Understanding that sensory stimuli are converted into electrical signals

Time / Duration: 

  • 2 class periods, plus additional time for homework


  • Copies of Student handouts
  • Cockroach
  • Classroom computer with projector to show video
  • Classroom laptop, iphone, or Android phone to show “spikes”
  • 250 ml or larger beakers filled with ice, dissection scissors, toothpick
  • Spikerbox, Spikerbox sound cable and/or iPhone cable
  • Cayenne pepper extract, push pins, parafilm, cardboard, pipette, timer

Alignment with National Standards: 

  • Next Generation Science Standards
  • Common Core Standards: English Language Arts


  • English