The colorful results of playing Cypress Hill through a squid

[Video Link]

Greg Gage of the DIY neuroscience company Backyard Brains stimulated the axons of a squid with the electrical signals coming out of a headphone jack plugged into an iPhone playing a Cypress Hill song. He videotaped the Squid's pigmented cells called chromatophores, which changed with the music.

We've been working hard on many new experiments at the Marine Biological Labs in Woods Hole, MA this summer and have some exciting (and beautiful) results. While working on the giant axons of the Longfin Inshore Squid, we decided to see what would happen if we played music like we do with our dancing cockroach leg experiment. The results were very cool.

Insane in the Chromatophores


  1. This reminds me of the kid’s book where the critter can take his spots off and juggle them and stuff.

  2. Very cool! If you’d like to see how this wondrous aspect of squid skin would work out as a commercial product, you might read the story Hive Mind Man by me and Rudy Rucker, which Rudy includes in his free downloadable short-story collection. Warning: the story is not particularly *about* the squidskin shirt, so it doesn’t show up until partway through the story. But a complete squidskin shirt demo is eventually delivered.

  3. I don’t have the TIME to do the research to know whether or not I should be enjoying this so much. Is that animal alive or dead? 

    1. I don’t think that they could convince a squid to go along with being zapped by rhythmic electroshocks, so probably dead or incapacitated. It’s like their “dancing cockroach leg experiment”, rip a limb off, and watch it twitch for our amusement. Dr. Frankenstein still pops up now and again.

    2. Someone in the YouTube comments claimed to have read the research study linked and the animals were anesthetized and killed before any hardcore science happened. Take that for what you will, though.

    3. For those who feel bad for the squid, I looked up the reference where they describe how they make the prep. Basically they anaesthetise the squid and remove its brain first, so I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t object to their musical taste (or anything much else, for that matter)…

      Source: Neural control of tuneable skin iridescence in squid, Wardil et al 2012, RSPB

    1. I believe capturing a squid, acquiring the needed electrodes, and getting a neuroscience degree is less hassle than running Windows.

      1. It would probably be easier to run in Linux on Wine. The big question is whether to use the proprietary squid driver binaries or the clunkier open-source ones… 

  4. More animal toture for viral videos please.  How about plugging an iPod into a cat’s brain and seeing what happens?

    1. I’m not sure if you’re concern trolling or are genuinely that ignorant as to how science works “fo’ reals!”

      The experiment itself was not done to just make a Youtube video, but as a way to get kids interested in science, which is something that is desperately needed in the United States.

       While this is an experiment on a actual (anesthetized) living thing, it’s studying an area which is still a bit of a “black box”, as these things cannot be modeled and require animal experimentation, because to paraphrase a Rumsfeld-ism: “there are still many unknown unknowns.”

      1.  OHHH, okay, so it WAS anesthetized? Are you sure? :/ I also thought this was pretty cruel, especially if the poor thing was just yanked out of the water and zapped with electricity. :/

  5. I can only hope our first alien visitors do not play this song through us. “insane, it’s got no brain! insane in the membrane..” Funny lyrics. Tortured skin not so funny. Though I ate some tasty squid yesterday.. FYI some squid skin is liquid crystal, served as impulse for invention of the LCD display. Maybe not this one but IIRC yariika or such from southern Japan has a reddish skin that will change color when you press it.

  6. A  future of seafood restaurants letting your prospective meal entertain via light and sound before selection and consumption 

    mmm tasty disco meal

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