The project team will design a “stabilimeter” apparatus and a smartphone app to interface to the apparatus for use in behavioral neuroscience experiments.
In behavioral neuroscience research with lab animals (rats and mice) the startle reflex is a useful indicator of sensorimotor functioning. The startle reflex is typically measured with a stabilimeter apparatus, consisting of a chamber mounted on load sensors that quantify the animal’s movements, and a system for delivering stimuli like noise or strobe light, interfaced via digital IO to a computer running software that controls the stimuli and filters and stores the sensor data. Current commercial systems are closed-source, relying on proprietary components and proprietary software. Many psychology and neuroscience labs, especially those at smaller undergraduate institutions and those in developing countries cannot afford these systems.
Today, current smartphones have accelerometers fully capable of doing the necessary sensing, and there are readily available software APIs for reading from the on-board accelerometer and for controlling audio/visual stimuli. This novel approach of a smartphone mounted on the stabilimeter chamber would allow a fully functioning but highly affordable stabilimeter system that can be built from off-the-shelf components for use in research and teaching, using virtually any common smartphone running the app written by the project team.
The team will produce a fully functional prototype stabilimeter chamber and smartphone app. The app must be capable of controlling simple audio-visual stimuli and recording accelerometer sensor data with millisecond precision. The app must offer the user control of several experimental parameters, such as the type, number, intensity, and timing of the stimuli, options for filtering the accelerometer data stream, and options for formatting and storing the data. The software should be cross-platform and robust to differences in smartphone hardware. The apparatus and the app should be user-friendly for scientists not trained in computer science or engineering.
This project would provide an innovative and affordable alternative to expensive proprietary systems. The system would be extensively used in research and teaching at Bucknell. More broadly, the system design will be shared publicly to encourage widespread adoption at other institutions. Upon the successful implementation of the system, the project would be suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal such as Journal of Neuroscience Methods or JOVE.
Any hardware components should be constructed entirely of widely available off-the shelf parts.
Students will need access to IDEs for developing cross-platform software for modern smartphones. We will provide the resources for working with rats.
The solution developed will be released as open-hardware and open-source software.
Point of Contact
Prof. Kevin Meyers
Dept. of Psychology