These roaches don’t do “La Cucaracha,” but they do like Weezer.
Four New York City high school students spent their summer experimenting with roaches at Cooper Union, teaching New York’s most hated insect to “dance” to popular music.
Under the tutelage of neuroscience professor Rob Uglesich, the students used remote controls to send electric signals to the bugs’ antennae. To make the roach go right, the students stimulate the left antenna.
The roach perceives the electric currents as some sort of obstacle — say, a wall — and scurries the other way.
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The students performed surgery on the roaches, knocking them out with anesthesia before inserting electric receptors into their antennae, as well as their bodies.
Unfortunately, simple electric pulses became ineffective after about 10 minutes. The solution? Music.
“The roaches learn to ignore the same sequence of signals,” said Uglesich. “Music has more variation to it, so it keeps them moving. A house drum beat would bore them very quickly.”
The students altered devices on the roaches to connect to their iPods or computers, letting the insects directly tune in to top hits.
“To get the best results, we have to use a strong bass,” said student Dumichel Harley, 15. “They liked it.”