open-source electrophysiology

February 2014 Newsletter

Added on by Open Ephys.

Official incorporation

Open Ephys recently registered as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Massachusetts. This makes us an official entity, separate from any individual lab. Having nonprofit status will allow us to accept donations and sell supplies through our website. We plan to redistribute custom components, such as electrode interface boards, to cut down on wasted time and manufacturing costs. We'll send out an update when that's up and running.

Our founding board of directors is Josh Siegle, Jakob Voigts, Christopher Moore, Matt Wilson, and Caleb Kemere. Our mission statement (as written in our Articles of Organization) is:

"To promote tool-sharing among members of the worldwide systems neuroscience community. Open Ephys will support the development, distribution, and maintenance of open-source hardware and software for collecting and analyzing neuroscientific data. Special focus will be given to tools with expensive or inflexible commercial alternatives, and which serve the needs of a broad user base. Open Ephys strives to make it easier for investigators to share the tools they develop by establishing a centralized tool repository and by coordinating distributed support networks."

We think this represents an important unmet need in our field, and we hope Open Ephys can grow to fill this niche. Our ultimate goal is to not to create an open-source electrophysiology platform, but to change the way tools for neuroscience are developed and shared.

Open Ephys in new species

The initial testing of our data acquisition system was carried out in mice. Now we're happy to report that Open Ephys has been used to collect data from a number of other species. We've received reports of successful recordings from rat, zebra finch, and primate subjects. We also have some fresh data from human EEG. Our design for an EEG adapter board makes it possible to connect our headstages to a standard electrode cap.

Software, hardware, and firmware updates

The latest release of our GUI (version 0.2.5) includes some interface upgrades that make Open Ephys more convenient to use. We now have a "Graph Viewer" component that allows you to visualize your entire signal chain at once, making it easier to navigate between modules. Users now have the option to automatically load the last-used configuration upon launch, so it takes less time to start experiments. And minor tweaks, like ensuring the buttons inside the control panel collapse gracefully (instead of overlapping as they did previously), make the overall user experience more enjoyable.

You can download pre-compiled binaries for the GUI from our website. If you're a new user, we recommend starting with this tutorial.

Our acquisition board has been updated for the most recent round of manufacturing. It includes two useful new features: (1) a port that makes it possible to synchronize timestamps across boards connected to different computers and (2) protective circuitry in case the wrong power supply is used. 

To view the design files, browse through our repository on GitHub.

Finally, the firmware for our acquisition boards now allows digital input channels to trigger an amplifier reset. This makes it possible to minimize electrical artifacts, for example when doing antidromic stimulation. Thanks to Reid Harrison at Intan Technologies and Shay Ohayon at Caltech for their help with implementing and testing this feature.

The FPGA firmware is also available on GitHub.