10 Mind-Extending Apps for the Neuroscientist

Written by Sias Jordaan

September 16, 2014

Most of us have probably not given much thought to smart use of smartphones in the neuroscience lab. How can your Android or iPhone device earn its keep in the dark confines of the microscopy or patch clamp room instead of only being a distraction? Here’s a list of 10 useful apps for the neuroscientist, divided into the categories of Reading, Thinking and Doing:



I personally like my reading to be on real paper, but I find the waiting in queues at the supermarket or the bank to be the ideal opportunity to dip into interesting new digital publications:

  1. Biotechniques(Android; iPhone) – Open access journal with intuitive reader software – often with nice overview topics;
  2. Journal of Neuroscience (Android; iPhone)- allows access to the abstracts of this high impact journal;
  3. Pubchase (part of ZappyLab bench tools Android; iPhone) A biomedical literature search and recommendation tool. Allows for easy navigation and bookmarking of favourites;



We might one day ultimately carry our implanted smart-device “nanobots” in our heads to expand our thinking capacity (see Ray Kurzweil’s fantastic futuristic vision), but which current smartphone apps can help us to enhance our thinking?

  1. Evernote(Android; iPhone) – For those who aren’t using Evernote yet, it’s definitely worth a go. With its useful synchronization function and its excellent method for filing, indexing and handling different file types, you have no excuse for failing to make notes on interesting ideas or misplacing anything in digital format. It can also be a great collaboration tool with your lab members and external collaborators by sharing ideas and data. The basic version is free, with the Premium version costing £4/month;
  2. SimpleMindMindmapping App (Android £3.99; iPhone £4.99)- Use this in-your-pocket mindmapping tool to stimulate creative thinking;



And finally, some apps to assist us where the real action happens:

  1. ResCalc– Microscopy(Android £0.82; iPhone £1.80) – This app allows for easy calculations of camera and microscope resolution. Nice and elegant tool if you don’t mind parting with a pound or two;
  2. ZappyLab Bench Tools (Android; iPhone) – a bundle of tools for the life science lab, most notably the calculator for reagent solutions and a protocols checklist;
  3. Promega(Android; iPhone) – this suite of useful functions has been compiled as a handy and user-friendly app. The highlight is probably the Biomath app, which helps with conversions like μg to pmol, molar ratios of insert:vector concentrations, melting temperature calculations etc.;
  4. Cell Imaging Life Technologies (Android; iPhone) – This app helps you to find suitable fluorescent dyes, reagents and protocols for fluorescence microscopy. Useful reference when you’re on the move and generating new ideas for your next project;
  5. Qiagen App (Android; iPhone) – Lists tables of commonly used lab buffers and solutions and features conversion and dilution calculators;


How can smartphone technology be better implemented as a laboratory tool? There’s real potential for smartphones to be used as “surrogate” acquisition devices in interaction with scientific instruments (e.g. the Voltset Multimeter). We’ll probably also see expanded uses for smartphone cameras or controlling of wireless devices and remote sensors. At MCI we’re thinking of enabling the CleverExplore Neuroscience Workstation with its WiFi technology to be controlled from smartphone or tablet.

Which apps are you using in the lab at the moment? And where do you think can smartphone capacity be exploited to develop useful apps for research applications?

(In our next blog post, we’ll have a short summary of an imaging symposium held at the King’s College Crick Institute recently. Be sure to receive this post by subscribing to our blog)

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