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Our nervous system processes information from a dizzying array of stimuli—visual, auditory, thermal, olfactory, and tactile, among others. How organisms respond to stimuli provides researchers with a wealth of information on how they adapt, learn, and live. The complex interaction between stimulus and response presents a myriad of challenges when it comes to creating effective stimuli in the research environment and accurately gathering data from subjects.

Today’s researchers have been gifted with a variety of stimulus presentation options to suit their individual needs. Complex experiments may call for robust solutions that integrate a wide range of stimulus presentation and data acquisition hardware and software, often from various industry leading manufacturers such as BIOPAC, E-Prime, and Cedrus. Such experiments can combine multiple stimuli with advanced stimulus controls and data gathering techniques.

Stimulus presentation, however, is not a one-size-fits-all proposition and some researchers may prefer a simpler solution that integrates visual stimulation presentation tools with powerful eye-tracking, as is available with BIOPAC’s screen-based Eye Tracking system. Additionally, AcqKnowledge now offers native integration and synchronization of stimulus presentation, eye tracking, and physiology data acquisition and analysis, all easily managed from a single application.

The seamless integration of stimulus presentation in data gathering and analysis allowed a team of researchers from the University of Connecticut and Emory University to monitor electrodermal activity (EDA) in subjects as they responded to pain stimuli induced by electrothermal grills. The goal of the study was to determine the viability of using such grills to induce pain without causing physical harm to research subjects. Researchers recorded and stored EDA signals from electrodes attached to the subjects’ fingers with a BioNomadix® wireless amplifier and MP160 data acquisition device connected to a computer running AcqKnowledge. A STMISOC programmable stimulus isolation adapter provided EP stimulation, allowing software-controlled adjustment of stimulus pulse width, repetition, and setup of an arbitrary pulse stimulus sequence via AcqKnowledge.

Using a single integrated system doesn’t necessarily equate sacrificing utility, nor does cross-platform integration need to be complicated. A group of researchers in Beijing recently explored the connection between fear response, conditioning, and memory that required the application of electrical shocks of varying intensity. A constant current STM200 stimulator delivered the shocks, in this case controlled by E-Prime software while data was collected by an MP150 running AcqKnowledge. In its current build, AcqKnowledge also integrates stimulus presentation and data acquisition, potentially streamlining the design of such an experiment.

Scent deliveryStudies requiring the simultaneous introduction of multiple stimuli can raise the level of complexity for researchers, as it did in a recent study that examined a link between pleasant touch and scent with facial muscle activity and heart rate. Facial EMG and ECG data were collected using a BIOPAC MP Research System with a BioNomadix® wireless system connected to a computer running AcqKnowledge; current builds of the software provide full integration of scent delivery hardware.

BIOPAC’s new integrated stimulus presentation meshes seamlessly with Eye Tracking and data acquisition, providing researchers with an integrated solution to save valuable time and effort.

BIOPAC Systems, Inc. provides life science researchers and educators with data acquisition and analysis systems that inspire people and enable greater discovery about life.

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