In the Fall of 2011 I was introduced to SMoRG (The Sensorimotor Research Group) at Arizona State University by a fellow student in my chemistry class. I had been interested in cognitive science and neurology for awhile and had been looking around for a summer internship. I contacted the principal investigator at SMoRG, Dr. Stephen Helms-Tillery, and asked him if it would be possible for me to get a volunteer internship. It was, and I was assigned to a project focused on the preliminary research behind how a scorpion controls its tail. Such projects eventually reach the point where the subject has a microelectrode array implanted in its brain to record brain activity so that it is possible to compare brain activity to the actual movement of the subject, but there is a long sequence of experiments that proceed this.
For this project the preliminary phase is recording high speed video of scorpion tail movement so that a computer model of the movement can be generated, and MR (magnetic resonance) imaging to determine the structure of the tail. The scorpion species we chose to use is the giant desert hairy scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis), a native Arizona species. We chose it for the following reasons:
- Mild venom. The sting of the giant desert hairy scorpion has been perceived to be as painful as a bee sting.
- Large size. Size is an important factor because larger scorpions are less likely to be damaged when handled.
- Aggressive. The giant desert hairy scorpion is know to be aggressive, which is helpful when the goal of the project is to record stinging motions.
All of the actual documentation of the project can be found under SMoRG Project Updates.