A Reconfigurable Visual-Programming Library for Real-Time Closed-Loop Cellular Electrophysiology

Front Neuroinform. 2015 Jun 23;9:17. doi: 10.3389/fninf.2015.00017. eCollection 2015.


Most of the software platforms for cellular electrophysiology are limited in terms of flexibility, hardware support, ease of use, or re-configuration and adaptation for non-expert users. Moreover, advanced experimental protocols requiring real-time closed-loop operation to investigate excitability, plasticity, dynamics, are largely inaccessible to users without moderate to substantial computer proficiency. Here we present an approach based on MATLAB/Simulink, exploiting the benefits of LEGO-like visual programming and configuration, combined to a small, but easily extendible library of functional software components. We provide and validate several examples, implementing conventional and more sophisticated experimental protocols such as dynamic-clamp or the combined use of intracellular and extracellular methods, involving closed-loop real-time control. The functionality of each of these examples is demonstrated with relevant experiments. These can be used as a starting point to create and support a larger variety of electrophysiological tools and methods, hopefully extending the range of default techniques and protocols currently employed in experimental labs across the world.

Keywords: active electrode compensation; cellular neurobiology; closed loop; dynamic clamp; electrophysiology; experimental control; extracellular stimulation; response clamp.