Real Time Experimental Control Software and Hardware for Behavioral Experiments
Real Time Software: This comprehensive software module controls and times associated devices within an experimental chamber. The software module permitsaccurate timing, control, and detection of behavioral events from levers, nose pokes, touch screens, photo detectors, motor controllers, and other devices. Timing is performed at one millisecond resolution. The Real Time Experimental Control Software is a module that is more extensive complex that the entire module for the Spike Sort and Continuous Data Acquisition Software Modules. The Real Time Software runs on MS W2K/XP as a stand allow package for Behavioral Control, buts also runs in parallel in the background and is integrated with the Spike Sorting Software Module.
Control is provided for AC or DC lights, solenoids, and retractable levers with fixed or random timing features via TTL output lines from the host computer. Multiple simultaneous experiments can be carried out. Control paradigms are easily created with the protocol language. Timing for control and recording via TTL are accurate to 1 millisecond.
Routine Uses: A typical use might be to present a tone or light stimulus, require the subject to press a lever, and then present a reward and accurately count and time responses and stimuli. Any situation requiring timing or control of devices that can be done through use of TTL input or output devices can use the Real time Control SoftwareExperimental script protocols allow for a wide range of standard animal experiments. These include operant tasks for fluid or drug reward, fixed and variable ratio schedules, delayed match/non match to sample, and progressive ratio tasks. Stimuli can be timed and scheduled. Treadmill or running wheel studies can be controlled and measured. Complex logical contingencies can be programmed by novices after short training. Biographics Staff can be contracted to assist. Protocols provided can be edited to fit individual experiments.
Multiple Instances: The software is designed to allow multiple instances of control protocols, each with separate window displays to be started and stopped independently in time. Data are spooled to separate files, one for each instance. Each instance can b e used to control either single or multiple independent chambers. In this way a single system can readily control one to sixteen experimental chambers. Data from the Spike Sorter and Continuous Data Acquisition System can be assigned to individual chambers. This allows a system to acquire spike events from more than one experimental chamber.
Real Time Display of Numerical Event Data: An optional selected screen displays a selected list of labeled ‘state events’. Associated displayed data included the number of times a state has been activated (i.e. Number of lever presses, fluid rewards, etc) and the time since the execution of an event.
Real Time Display of Data: The image below shows a graph of accumulated events over time. Any labeled behavior event can be selected for the display which updates in real time at one second intervals.
External Interface Devices: Standard 48 or 96 channels of buffered TTL IO lines are included to connect to a wide variety of available external devices, including photocells, solenoids, lights, retractable levers, motor speed/position controls. Banks of 8 bits each are set for input or output under software control. An optional kit with PC board and power source allows 24 power and optical signal isolation modules. Simple connections and cable are provided to experimental devices, which are powered by DC or AC. IO lines can be distributed between chambers for control of single or multiple experiments.
Real-Time State Machine Control Program: Each system is provided with 48 or 96 bits of buffered digital I/O. Digital I/O events are timed accurately to within 1 millisecond. Output lines can source or sink 20 mA of current to drive peripheral devices such as optoisolators or relays. Video and audio output sequences can also be controlled. Hardware and software protocols allow accurate synchronization of data acquisition with external instrumentation. Users can easily design scripts to respond to external events, implement timers, control devices, etc.
Data Analysis: Rate meter, histogram, raster, correlogram, event symbols, spreadsheet formats and database design allows flexible analysis via graphical outputs. Quantitative data organization allows output to Matlab and standard statistical packages. Data is organized in single files or a database to allow fast random access to timed event data across files and different experiments. Many graphical displays are standard. Data can be exported to other formats, including Stranger, NEX (NeuroExplorer Inc), Matlab or text.
How the Software Works – the State Machine Concept: Users can easily create protocols to run experiments by preparing scripts in Excel. An experiment is defined by a list of ‘states’, each with a name and each corresponding to a line or row in an Excel Spreadsheet. A ‘state’ corresponds to a task that the program must do or complete and then move on to begin or ‘make active’ another ‘state’ somewhere in the list. The program checks each active state at one millisecond intervals. There are only a few defined states, just as a computer has a limited set of general purpose instructions. Examples of States are: ‘Keep checking a TTL line until it goes high or low (indicating that a lever has been pressed or released) and then terminate that state and go to and start a new state.’; or, “Wait in the current state until a fixed or variable number of milliseconds has lapsed and then terminate this state and go to and start one or more new states on the list’; or ‘keep check for a keystroke on the keyboard and then go to one or more new states and begin them’; or, ‘determine if a particular state has executed a specific number and if so then start a specific state. Some protocols may have as many as 20-50 states active and being checked each millisecond – as in ‘states to check each of a group of eight photocells until a break in a beam occurs and then start a new state’. The state machine concept allows a single fast computer processor to act like a very wide parallel processor with each of a large number of states being active and tested at one millisecond intervals.
Some states control the logic or direction of other states. States require only a few microseconds to execute on modern computers so many concurrent tasks can be done during each millisecond timing cycle. With this software module either simple or very complex experimental designs are possible with essentially no programming skills. Lots of preprogrammed examples are provided.
Anyone with a little help has been found able to program nearly any experiment one can think up.
Contact for Quotation: Neuroplex will compete in cost and features with any other commercially available system