Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are being used increasingly as light sources in life sciences applications such as in vision research, fluorescence microscopy and in brain-computer interfacing. Here we present an inexpensive but effective visual stimulator based on light emitting diodes (LEDs) and open-source Arduino microcontroller prototyping platform. The main design goal of our system was to use off-the-shelf and open-source components as much as possible, and to reduce design complexity allowing use of the system to end-users without advanced electronics skills. The main core of the system is a USB-connected Arduino microcontroller platform designed initially with a specific emphasis on the ease-of-use creating interactive physical computing environments. The pulse-width modulation (PWM) signal of Arduino was used to drive LEDs allowing linear light intensity control. The visual stimulator was demonstrated in applications such as murine pupillometry, rodent models for cognitive research, and heterochromatic flicker photometry in human psychophysics. These examples illustrate some of the possible applications that can be easily implemented and that are advantageous for students, educational purposes and universities with limited resources. The LED stimulator system was developed as an open-source project. Software interface was developed using Python with simplified examples provided for Matlab and LabVIEW. Source code and hardware information are distributed under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL, version 3).
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