Objective: Closed-loop experiments, in which causal interventions are conditioned on the state of the system under investigation, have become increasingly common in neuroscience. Such experiments can have a high degree of explanatory power, but they require a precise implementation that can be difficult to replicate across laboratories. We sought to overcome this limitation by building open-source software that makes it easier to develop and share algorithms for closed-loop control.
Approach: We created the Open Ephys GUI, an open-source platform for multichannel electrophysiology experiments. In addition to the standard 'open-loop' visualization and recording functionality, the GUI also includes modules for delivering feedback in response to events detected in the incoming data stream. Importantly, these modules can be built and shared as plugins, which makes it possible for users to extend the functionality of the GUI through a simple API, without having to understand the inner workings of the entire application.
Main results: In combination with low-cost, open-source hardware for amplifying and digitizing neural signals, the GUI has been used for closed-loop experiments that perturb the hippocampal theta rhythm in a phase-specific manner.
Significance: The Open Ephys GUI is the first widely used application for multichannel electrophysiology that leverages a plugin-based workflow. We hope that it will lower the barrier to entry for electrophysiologists who wish to incorporate real-time feedback into their research.