NeuroDAC: An open-source arbitrary biosignal waveform generator

J Neural Eng. 2020 Nov 5. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/abc7f0. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Researchers are developing biomedical devices with embedded closed-loop algorithms for providing advanced adaptive therapies. As these devices become more capable and algorithms become more complex, tasked with integrating and interpreting multi-channel, multi-modal electrophysiological signals, there is a need for flexible bench-top testing and prototyping. We present a methodology for leveraging off-the- shelf audio equipment to construct a biosignal waveform generator capable of streaming pre-recorded biosignals from a host computer. By re-playing known, well-characterized, but physiologically relevant real-world biosignals into a device under test, researchers can evaluate their systems without the need for expensive in vivo experiments.

Approach: An open-source design based on the proposed methodology is described and validated, the NeuroDAC. NeuroDAC allows for 8 independent channels of biosignal playback using a simple, custom designed attenuation and buffering circuit. Applications can communicate with the device over a USB interface using standard audio drivers. On-board analog amplitude adjustment is used to maximize the dynamic range for a given signal and can be independently tuned for each channel.

Main results: Low noise component selection yields a no-signal noise floor of just 5.35 ± 0.063 μVrms. NeuroDAC's frequency response is characterized with a high pass -3 dB rolloff at 0.57 Hz, and is capable of accurately reproducing a wide assortment of biosignals ranging from EMG, EEG, and ECG to extracellularly recorded neural activity. We also present an application example using the device to test embedded algorithms on a closed-loop neural modulation device, the Medtronic RC+S.

Significance: By making the design of NeuroDAC open-source we aim to present an accessible tool for rapidly prototyping new biomedical devices and algorithms than can be easily modified based on individual testing needs. Identifiers: NCT04281134, NCT03437928, NCT03582891.

Keywords: biomedical devices; biosignal playback; closed-loop neuromodulation; neural interface; waveform generator.

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