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To help you understand and use the official Biomedical Toolkit better and faster, we will create several how-to documents which are complementary to the basic LabVIEW help.

Check out those documents in "Documents" part with a "Biomedical Toolkit How-tos" class.

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Yes - it's official...the LabVIEW Biomedical Toolkit is released!  We are very excited about this new toolkit - it is the result of all several years of hard work by a dedicated team of biomedical enthusiasts here at NI and would not have been possible without all the support we received from you, the LabVIEW community. The tremendous success of the Biomedical Startup Kit on NI Labs gave us the confidence to continue the work on this project and bring it to a level of completeness, performance, and quality that we think will make it a standard tool for LabVIEW users involved in biomedical teaching and research.

The new LabVIEW Biomedical Toolkit combines the "executable" and "source code" versions of the previous startup kit and adds so much more. The Biomedical Logger is a full-function 8-channel datalogger that can acquire data at up to 10kS/sec per channel with conditional start and stop, multiple screen update modes, event markers, a "playback" mode, and the ability to create an additional 8 calculated channels in real-time - all with a simple and clean interface that gets you going quickly.  The calculated or "virtual" channels can be created, viewed and logged by processing any physical channel using a list of common functions (integral, derivative, filters, etc.) or even by specifying a LabVIEW VI of your own design. Just build the VI to our template and point to it from the dialog.

The Biosignal Generator, in addition to outputting from common file formats, can now synthesize ECG, EEG, and EMG signals using a variety of parameters - these can be used to validate hardware or software algorithms with well-defined, predictable waveforms. Very cool.

In addition to these powerful enhancements on the previous start-up kit - and perhaps even more exciting - many of the functions are available as Express VIs. This will greatly simplify the development of your own custom applications. File I/O, biosignal generation, biosignal processing...in total there are:

9 Express VIs for DAQ/Simulation/File IO

16 API VIs for Biosignal Preprocessing/Feature Extraction and Image Processing

3 Controls for Displaying Biosignal and Image

We'll be posting articles on many of these new apps and VIs to further explain  the features and help get you started quickly.

Another great milestone - we just reached our 500 member milestone!  Thanks for all your support and please keep the suggestions coming - we are just getting started!

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Neuroscientists and clinicians have long been able to monitor the signals on the surface of you scalp and within your brain.  Known as EEG or electroencephalography, this technique is used for determining mental state (alertness vs. relaxation), evaluating sleep quality, helping to localize the focus and progression of epileptic seizures, and to make the legal determination of brain death.  This recording technique is most typically used to record spontaneous EEG - the gross and uncorrelated signals that are the result of billions of neurons firing spontaneously.  A special form of EEG is sometimes used to record the brainwaves that are generated in response to a repetitive stimulus.  In these recordings, signal averaging techniques are employed to isolate the response of regions of your brain to a deliberate input - possibly a flash of light.  In this way, it is possible to help localize the centers that are responsible for processing vision and determine the time progression of the various elements involved in processing and/or interpreting these inputs. 

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has brought these techniques to a whole new level. Researchers are now able to determine with a much higher level of spatial resolution which regions are activated during various stimuli. With this technique, it is now possible to actually "see" with some degree of accuracy what a subject "sees" by decoding the activity generated in primary processing areas of the brain. 

Check out this YouTube overview of the technique and the work done at the Gallant lab at UC Berkeley:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FsH7RK1S2E

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NeuroSky Brain Computer Interface

Neurosky_headset.png


NeuroSky is a company that has developed advanced ASICs for acquiring electroencephalography (EEG), simplifying the challenge of adding EEG to instruments and products for education or even entertainment.  NeuroSky has several headsets for sale featuring their ThinkGear chip that acquire EEG through a single dry sensor electrode.  The major advantage of the Neurosky headsets are the quick and easy setup - put the headset on like a pair of headphones and you are ready to go. Traditional gel bases EEGs can take up to 30 minutes to start acquiring data while the NeuroSky headsets are ready to go in seconds.  The Neurosky headset has only one forehead electrode (and ear clip reference) which, due to it's placement, will also pick-up forehead EMG and eyeblinks.

Go get the driver and example LabVIEW VI on NI Labs here:  http://bit.ly/LabVIEW-NeuroSky

With this driver you acquire actual EEG data at 512 samples/second into LabVIEW that has been bandwidth filtered and sharply notch filtered at line frequency (60Hz in the US).  Perfect for teaching basic EEG concepts, creating biofeedback applications in LabVIEW, or playing around with signal processing techniques.

Emotiv Epoc

emotivheadset_250_250.gif

The Emotiv Epoc headset is a more complex product, using felt electrodes that are soaked in saline solution prior to use. It has 14 channels of EEG, along with a gyro sensor for detecting head position.  This product seems to be geared more toward the gaming world with the goal of creating a even more immersive experience than just video and sound. The gyro sensor can be used as an accurate cursor pointing device and the EEG channels (which also pick up a good deal of EMG and eye movement) can theoretically be used to detect stress, attention/focus, etc. that could be used as other inputs into realistic game scenarios.  The software that ships with the device includes some nice demonstrations for training yourself to control an on-screen object through self-generated mental states - easy to get two states working (relaxed/meditative and alert) but training additional states is pretty tough.

Unfortunately, Emotiv locks down the raw (or minimally processed) EEG sensor data in their free driver, only allowing access to the gyro (up/down, left/right position) and 3 highly processed indices that related to facial expression ("Expressiv"), emotional ("Affectiv"), and cognitive ("Cognitiv") activity.  They don't say how these indices are calculated, so the value of the data you get from this free driver comes down to whether you can live with their processing results. For game developers, this is really all they want.  For biomedical teaching and research, there's not a lot of value.  Emotiv does sell a research version of the SDK ($750 for individuals, $7500 for enterprises, and $2500 for educational institutions).  We haven't ponied up the $7500 to develop a LabVIEW driver that gives you access to the raw EEG, and it's not clear how we could distribute this even if we did.  If there is enough interest, maybe we can work something out with Emotiv.

You can find this driver on the LabVIEW Hacker website here:  http://labviewhacker.com/epoc.php

Steve

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National Instruments will be exhibiting again at the Biomedical Engineering Society conference, this year in Hartford, CT from October 12 to the 15th.  Stop by our booth to see lots of new stuff that we've been working on, including a new collaboration with iWorx Systems, Inc., a leader in solutions for physiological teaching and research. Our demos will include:

  • a prototype of iWorx's new 4-channel bioamplifier board for NI ELVIS, compatible with all of their most popular sensors and accessories for animal/human physiology
  • Quanser's new Myoelectric QNET Board for NI ELVIS, a fully integrated solution for utilizing the principles of electromyography to control a servo motor
  • a demonstration of the complete design flow for a student design project on NI myDAQ from schematic capture, simulation, layout, and prototyping.
  • and come play with the LabVIEW interfaces that we have created for low-cost EEG products (or "brain-computer interfaces") from Emotiv and Neurosky

All this and we're just getting started...hope to see you in Hartford!

Steve

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If any of you have been involved in hobby electronics, the maker movement, or student design projects, you have probably heard about "Arduino" (arr-dwee-noh) - the small, low-cost embedded microcontroller board.  Since it's launch in 2005, the Arduino community has grown rapidly, with add-on boards and numerous discussion forums, blogs, and neat projects being posted on-line almost every day.  For those of you who haven't come across it, Arduino is an open-source "physical computing" prototyping platform consisting of very small, low-cost and low-power microcontroller boards with a small amount of integrated I/O.  It is supported with a free, simple set of tools for configuration and programming. Intended for hobbyists and non-embedded experts, it has caught on rapidly and is now supported by a growing ecosystem of add-on products and on-line communities.

The Arduino board doesn't have much to offer in the way of a user interface, so a group of guys at NI thought that it would be cool to be able to interface LabVIEW with an Arduino project, and do it in a way that is easy and inexpensive in keeping with the Arduino philosophy.  Check out what they've come up with here:  https://decibel.ni.com/content/groups/labview-interface-for-arduino

The free LabVIEW Interface for Arduino toolkit has been so popular that we have partnered with Sparkfun Electronics to create a complete kit of an Arduino Uno board with the LabVIEW Student Edition all for under $50. 

So what kinds of biomedical applications could you do with an Arduino Uno and LabVIEW?  How about an activity monitor for a pet gerbil or hamster that you could use to monitor periods of sleep, activity, feeding, and maybe even provide alerts for low water or food.  Or a pulse rate monitor with data logging using a photoplethysmograph (PPG) sensor utilizing an IR LED and photodetector.  If you have had the chance to work with an Arduino, let us know about your project - we'd love to hear about it!

Steve

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While searching for relevant peer-reviewed scientific papers with interesting LabVIEW content (and there's lots of it out there) I stumbled across a relatively new website called the Journal of Visualized Experiments or JOVE. Billed as the "video journal for biological and medical research", it is sort of a YouTube for scientific researchers, but with true editorial standards and staff.  The quality of the video productions are excellent - clear, well scripted and well edited.  The website requires you to create an account (free for limited access to the content but all of the video abstracts).  I was thrilled to see that of the approximately 1000 video articles published so far, there are nearly 40 articles where LabVIEW was used to help researchers control the experimental procedure, perform datalogging, signal processing, or some other combination of tasks.

A quick sampling of some of the video articles that include LabVIEW applications:

As the methods employed to advance scientific understanding of biological processes get increasingly more complex, these video articles provide a great way to clearly convey the setup and procedures in a way that no paper or on-line article could ever duplicate. Since experimental validation depends on the ability of others to duplicate results, and the progress of advancement relies on building on the research of other investigators, this new way of communicating methods looks to be filling a key gap.  Look to see more sites like this popping up in other areas of scientific discovery.

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Some of you may know that National Instruments is involved in promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education in high schools and even earlier through partnerships with LEGO and the FIRST LEGO League, and Project Lead The Way. We recently ran a contest inviting high school teachers to showcase  innovative ways that they are integrating LabVIEW into labs, lesson  plans, and projects. Well, the winners have just been announced and I'm happy to see that two of the top six submissions had biomedical themes!

Take a few minutes to check out the winning videos and all of the other stellar submissions, posted at the links provided below.

1st Place: TCEA Robotics Competition - Darren Wilson (Guthrie High School)
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr1fdwToKl8
Course: Web Mastery
Grade Level: 9-12
Hardware Used:  LEGO MINDSTORMS
Judge Comments:  We chose this one because it did a great job showcasing what the students took away from their initial experience with LabVIEW and aptly and succinctly captures the value LabVIEW brings to Darren’s classroom.  This video clearly communicates what students learned from the project (from the student’s perspective) and demonstrates what a novice can pick up in a very short time period.  We loved hearing Darren’s perspective on why he likes LabVIEW. Congrats!

2nd Place: Traffic Light Loudness Indicator - Nelson Nunalee (Ravenscroft School)
Video Link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS3Cugw0qBg
Course: Honors Engineering
Grade Level: 11-12
Hardware Used:  National Instruments SPEEDY-33
Judge Comments:  Very creative project idea and well-produced video.  Loved seeing each of the students articulate their understanding how the program they created work.  Great examples of how the students each customized their front panel and took a slightly different approach to solving the problem.

3rd Place: Computed Tomography Scanner – Ralf Widenhorn, Justin Dunlap, Elliot Mylott, Ryan Klepetka  (Portland State University)
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQ_KgU42uRU
Course: Physics
Grade Level: 12
Hardware Used: Vernier Photogate, Rotary Motion Sensor, and LabPro
Judge Comments:  What an incredible project idea.  Who would imagine that high school kids could be able to do something like this in their Physics lab?! One thing we really liked about this video was how clearly the teaching concepts were called out and woven throughout the lab (geometry, trigonometry, biology, anatomy).

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HONORABLE MENTION

Harmonics Lab – William Cragoe  (Sacred Heart-Griffin High School)
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hleNCiE2aNo
Course: Engineering
Grade Level: 11-12
Hardware Used: National Instruments SPEEDY-33

Heart Rate Monitor with Audible Alarm – Dominic Audia and Doug Herman (Iowa City West High School)
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP4I6HbpQIA
Course: Biomedical Engineering
Grade Level: 10-12
Hardware Used: Vernier Hand Grip Heart Rate Monitor, Vernier sensorDAQ

Singing Magnets – Rebecca Morrison (Runnels School)
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rgs95LdHZWc
Course: AP Physics
Grade Level: 11-12
Hardware Used: Vernier SensorDAQ, Go! Link, LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT, or National Instruments Speedy-33; variety of sensors

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National Instruments has recently become involved with Engineering World Health, a great organization focused on addressing healthcare technology in developing areas of the world.  With roots at Duke University's Biomedical Engineering Department, EWH has three main programs:

The winners of the 2010 Design Competition were announced at this year's BMES conference in Austin.  The team from Georgia Tech took top honors with a innovative uninterruptible power supply design based on recycled 12V car batteries and junk PC power supply components.  See more about the winners in the EWH September Newsletter.

All you students out there:  join your local chapter or form one if your school doesn't have one yet - it's easy to do and a great way to get involved in real engineeirng design work that will can have an immediate impact on the world. National Instruments is making LabVIEW and other products available for  free to eligible teams that are entering the design competition this year, and entries that use LabVIEW will also be eligible for entry into NI's Student Design Competition too!

Hurry - contest entry info is due by January 14th!

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The ASEE reported in October that Biomedical Engineering is the now the fastest growing discipline at all degree granting levels of any engineering discipline - and the current rapid growth pace is expected to continue.

Here's a link to a great feature article describing the reasons behind the growth, the challenges that educators face while trying to pack concepts from biology, physiology, physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and more into a typical 4-year undergraduate degree program, and how they are adapting to improve the curriculum.

Of course, National Instruments' products and LabVIEW in particular are playing an important role in the dealing with some of these challenges by making it possible to teach measurement and instrumentation concepts, circuits, signal processing, control, and even physiology (with the optional Vernier BioSensor Kit for ELVIS) - all with the same hardware and software platforms.  Critically, these same tools can take the student from the lab to a more open-ended design project, allowing him/her to actually "do engineering".  This is why we all studied to become engineers in the first place, right?

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This year at BMES, visit National Instruments in booth #512/514 to learn how scientists and faculty around the world are performing leading edge research and teaching the next generation of biomedical engineers using National Instruments software and hardware.

Visit me in our booth for demonstrations of products solutions, courseware, and other resources for:

  • Measurements and Instrumentation
  • Circuits and Electronics
  • Data acquisition and Signal Processing
  • Image acquisition and Analysis

We'll have some great demos to show, including a non-invasive imaging system built from about $50 in parts that is able to resolve 3D image of an M&M inside a translucent plastic cube!

I look forward to meeting some of you in person...and the weather couldn't be better in Austin right now!

Best regards,

Steve

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The Nintendo Wii game system revolutionized the way that people interact with the on-screen action.  Playing a game with a conventional game controller is a thumb-intensive activity, maybe with a few choice gestures thrown in once in a while.  Playing a Wii game is a whole body experience - many games cannot even be played sitting down since the input required to get the desired outcome often requires a the player to mimic the dynamics of an actual "real" player - the swing of a golf club or tennis racquet, or the backswing and timed release of a bowling ball.

The key to this truly interactive experience is the "Wiimote" technology - a wireless, rugged handheld device the size of a slim TV remote control with sensitive and responsive accelerometers and IR sensing technology.  The device's low cost, availability, and use of the Bluetooth wireless protocol helped foster an active hacker community and wide variety of applications away from the Wii gaming console.  Of course, the LabVIEW community has been right there in the middle of this activity, finding cool ways to exploit the features of this input device - watch this video by one of our application engineers here in Austin:

The application of this device in biomedical engineering could include sports medicine and rehabilitation, biomechanics research including motion analysis, shock/injury research, behavioral and cognitive research, etc.  Of course, LabVIEW is an ideal environment to acquire the sensor data and do real-time processing, data logging, and even visualization or control.  All that is needed is some code to interface to the Bluetooth resources on the PC.  Fortunately, our own Sam Shearman has put together an application note to get you started: Clicky-clicky

Download the code and give it a try - we're anxious to hear how you could use this especially in biomedical teaching or research.

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Seems like a run across the term biomimetics almost daily all of a sudden.  Biomimetics is simply the development of technology that mimics nature - kind of taking the "intelligent design" movement and turning it on its head.  It can be as simple as a camouflage design based on an organism's naturally evolved patterns and colors, or more complex as in the design of an autonomous robot with an operating strategy that mimics the behavior of a lobster.  Of course, the latter is much more interesting to the LabVIEW community, as robotics is a very hot area for National Instruments.

This year at NI Week 2010 (coming up next week!) we will be holding our first Robotics and Autonomous Vehicles Summit with presentations by some of the top researchers, scientists, and engineers working in the field of autonomous robots.  Biomimetics is a strategy being employed by neuroscience researchers who are trying to understand the basis for the control and behavior of animals by building increasingly complex artificial models of real organisms.  Similarly, robotics engineers are building ever more competent and independent autonomous robots by employing some of the strategies used by relatively simple animals to avoid danger or identify food.

Here are a few sessions titles from the Robotics and Autonomous Vehicle Summit that I hope to catch:

Biomimetic Mobile Robot Design with NI Single-Board RIO

Prototyping for Life Science Automation

Teaching a Walking Robot to See

Using Synthetic Neural Models to Augment Traditional Control Systems

Hope to see you at NI-Week this year!

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I had an opportunity recently to visit the Marine Biological Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod.  National Instruments has supported the work at this prestigious lab over the years with equipment and software donations, so it was great to see our tools being used in cutting edge research.  The fun part about the summer program at Woods Hole is that researchers from around the world come to teach some of the newest techniques for making neurophysiological measurements.  One of the technical themes that I noticed from these visits is the increasing use of coordinated (ideally tightly synchronized) video and waveform data.  In some cases, the goal is to correlate the behavior of an organism to controlled stimulus in its environment, or with measurements of nerve or muscle activity within the organism itself.  In other cases, images of tissue or cells (perhaps using fluorescent dyes) are acquired while cells are excited chemically or electrically.  The variety is endless.  In one amazing example (technique taught by Michael Dickinson from CalTech) the images of the wings of a fruit fly are acquired while recording from the "brain" of the fly while it is presented with a variety of visual stimuli.

Since timing and synchronization have always been a hallmark of NI's data acquisition technology, this kind of tightly synchronized video and measurement task is very simple when using image acquisition boards (analog or digital Cameralink) since the image acquisition board can be setup to drive the sample clock of the DAQ board using RTSI.  There is no need to create triggers to start and stop video acquisition and hope that during post-acquisition analysis you can line up the two data streams - click here for example code.

Even better - with NI DIAdem you can easily move through hours of video and waveform data collected using LabVIEW and do it easily all in the same environment without any programming.  Check out this screenshot, which shows automobile vehicle data (like RPM, engine temperature, ignition timing parameters, etc.) as waveforms while cockpit video, audio, and even GPS coordinates are updated all simultaneously.  Imagine this applied to the tracking of a migrating bird while physiological and environmental parameters are logged.  Or the force of a grasshopper's leg is measured while high-speed video captures the "jump" and electrodes measure the nerves driving the legs.  Instead of the GPS mapping module, you could import a 3D model of the grasshopper's leg and map the stress in the leg as a color map on the model.

DIAdem is an incredibly useful tool for managing and visualizing technical data and I'm convinced that this tool could dramatically increase the productivity of researchers in many fields.

DIAdem video & data.jpg

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I recently attended an SBIR/STTR conference organized by the NIH and one of the presenters was from the FDA's division of small manufacturers. He gave a great overview of the medical device regulations in one hour and referenced a relatively new and little-known series of videos on their website for training the public on the process of getting your new medical device idea legally to market. The videos start with the basic overview of the medical device regs (there is a similar set for your drug people out there) but continue on to cover some topics in detail, including device listing, facility registration, premarket clearance, the quality systems regulations (QSR or part 820) and even an overview of regulated software.

It's tough to actually find these training resources on the FDA website so here's the direct link:

http://www.fda.gov/Training/CDRHLearn/ucm162015.htm

The presenter's contact information:

Mr. Bill Sutton, Deputy Director, Division of Small Manufacturers, International and Consumer Assistance

Office of Communication, Education, and Radiation Programs

william.sutton@fda.hhs.gov

Main phone:  800-638-2041

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Have you ever needed to find some great images for a report or presentation and been frustrated finding them with Google (never mind the copyright issues involved).  I ran across a great website that solves this problem.  It's called "ImageBank" and is a service of the Higher Education Academy at the UK Centre for Bioscience.  The images are all available for download as long as the use is educational and the author/copyright holder and website are acknowledged. You can easily search the imagebank by keyword or browse by subject, organism, or scientific name.

Here's shot of a little beasty that we are very familiar with here in Austin - my son was just stung by one yesterday (ouch).

(photo courtesy Larry Degala, © Larry Degala):

nevada_scorpion_right_small.jpg

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Have you ever wanted to find examples of LabVIEW being used in experiments or applications that are similar to your own?  There's a really easy way to search a variety of scientific journals all in one click and not have to wade through pages of Google garbage:  it's called HighWire and it's an ePublishing service of Stanford University.

A HighWire search for the term "labview" returns over 4200 results.  Even better, the full text for many of the journal articles can be downloaded for free!

Here are a couple of papers that looked pretty interesting to me:

An open-source LabVIEW application toolkit for phasic heart rate analysis in psychophysiological res...
Real-Time Supervisor System Based on Trinary Logic to Control Experiments With Behaving Animals and ...

If your interest is specifically the neurosciences, then it's easy to narrow down the number of returned results by adding another key term to "labview".  If you search on "labview neuron" and trim the date range to 2000-2010, then you will find 1157 results.

I'm interested in finding a way to "embed" this kind of search engine on our website or this user group - any ideas?

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The images obtained using flourescence microscopy can be stunning - the various stains or markers that are used to identify various proteins or cellular structures generate amazing patterns, many of which look ironically like images obtained from astronomical research where the measurement scale is at the other extreme.  I use these images as my desktop background and screen saver images...nature photography at a cellular level!

Each year, GE Healthcare runs a contest for the best image obtained from its IN Cell Analyzer, a system used to study cellular structure and processes that is used primarily in research and drug discovery.  Visit the contest website to see the finalists and place your vote for the best image.  The voting is open until January 6, 2010.

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Many people do not think of National Instruments when it comes to image acquisition and analysis, but it's a very natural extension to the National Instruments measurements platform.  Getting data easily and efficiently into the PC to leverage the power and flexibility of the PC platform for processing and visualization has always been the core NI's strategy.  Video or still images are just another form of data - data that is particularly well suited to the strengths of the PC as large images and video need lots of memory and processing horsepower to process and store.

There are numerous applications of image analysis in the biomedical world, from microscopy to diagnostic imaging to motion analysis.  LabVIEW plus NI's image acquisition tools and camera interface hardware make acquiring data from cameras simple.  When combined with the specialized image analysis tools in the NI Vision Development Module, you can do some pretty sophisticated image processing - and often all in real-time. Add the ability to synchronize measurements from other instruments and sensors with the video and you have a powerful programmable platform for performing research, developing a novel instrument or device, or the basis of a system for telemedicine or image-guided medical robotics.

Here's a sampling of user applications that highlight the use of LabVIEW in biomedical image analysis:

Also - check out the Particle Tracking Resource Page, a nice collection of free LabVIEW tools for performing particle tracking.

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At our firm we continuously evaluate how we may cut prices and increase productivity. In this process we have evaluated the use of windows CE, and Labview. As we use Labview in other productcs. And windows CE is a interesting OS for small modules. Medical grade units are also available on the market. So we did some testing on the side as both Windows CE and Labview Touch Panel Module, can be evaluated for free. The testing was promising so we almost decided to take it further. That is, until we discovered the licence policy for the Touch Panel Module. Since the NI HMI units are not of medical grade type devices, we can not use any of them. And because of that we have to purchase a Touch Panel Deployment License for each and every unit we sell. And that license will cost us the equivalent sum of 730$. What a showstopper. I can understand the LabVIEW Real-Time Deployment License for Standard PC's- ETS RTOS (813$ converted from locale currency) . As in this case we  also get a RTOS not developed by NI. But what do get for 730$ a piece of paper, and a plastic sticker with some NI logo? And we still do have to pay for Windows CE licence. So shame on you NI for the most greedy licence policy I have ever seen.  If NI keep this up they will soon end up like the American car industry. Producing cars that hardly even Americans are interested in.

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Dynamic clamping is a method of studying the ion channels in nerve cells and other cells with excitable membranes.  When these channels open, sodium, potassium and other ions are allowed to migrate into/out-of the cell causing a net current flow and a voltage across membrane.  Studying the modulation of these ion channels is an important tool for better understanding these cells and for exploring the behavior of drugs on these cells.

The technique depends on creating a seal between a glass micropipette and the cell membrane with the goal of capturing only one or two ion channels under the seal at the micropipette tip (the tip opening is tiny - only about 1um diameter).  The micropipette is then filled with an ionic solution and a thin recording wire is inserted.  Special amplifiers are used to either control the current through the membrane while measuring voltage, or alternatively hold the voltage constant and measure the current that flows when the channels open/close.  Either way, the membrane conductance can be monitored and directly correlated to the opening/closing of the ion channels.

G-clamp is an application developed by Dr. Paul Kullman while at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine to implement a dynamic clamp using LabVIEW Real-time and National Instruments I/O in concert with standard microelectrode amplifiers. Unlike the analog control systems used in typical patch-clamp amplifiers, this system uses a digital high-speed control system running under LabVIEW-RT to implement dynamic current or voltage clamping at 40khz or faster - plenty fast enough to obtain high fidelity recordings of nerve action potentials and ion channel currents.  Since the control system is all done in LabVIEW it is fully customizable - a true "virtual instrument" for electrophysiology.

Full documentation and source code is available at http://hornlab.neurobio.pitt.edu/

G-Clamp.jpg

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It's been a while since my last blog post, so I thought I'd give you all (y'all in Texan) some idea of where National Instruments (and LabVIEW in particular) plays in the life sciences today.  If you were able to make it to NI Week this year, you would have seen a pretty nice representation of the breadth of the applications that we get involved in - here's a sampling:

On the stage during the Tuesday keynote presentation, representatives from Animage (an Exxim Computing Company) demonstrated their use of cRIO and LabVIEW to rapidly prototype and develop the control system for a novel multimodal computerized tomography (CT) veterinary imaging system, including multiple axes of motion control.  View the video of their presentation here.

During Wednesday's keynote (dedicated largely to our academic and educational efforts in robotics and engineering education), a group of Penn State students presented their work on the Mashavu Project- an ambitious endeavour to bring basic healthcare to the populations of Tanzania and Kenya through the promise of telemedicine.  View their work to help develop very low cost biomedical devices (scales, thermometers, blood pressure and pulse measurement, spirometers, etc.) that work with laptops and cell phone technology here.

During the conference technical sessions, Boston Engineering (an NI Alliance Partner) presented a session on the development of a precision, automated microtome to create incredibly thin brain slices (from 1um down to 50nm) for neuroscience research.  Check out the system description and some of the challenges that they had to overcome in their presentation here.

Each year we hold a paper contest to highlight some of the great solutions that our customers have developed in a variety of industries, including the life sciences.  This year the winner built a system using LabVIEW, SCXI, PXI, and CompactDAQ to do functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), including providing several modes of stimulation (auditory, visual, etc.) as well as logging physiological parameters, all while the subject is being scanned with the MRI system and maintaining synchronization between all this data.

These examples demonstrate the wide variety of applications, from educational to research to commercial medical devices, where NI is making a difference in the life sciences.  Let us know what you are working on and maybe we will feature you in an upcoming NI Week keynote!

Steve

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National Instruments annual user conference is only a few weeks away.  If you haven't attended in the past, NI-Week is an intensive conference consisting of technical tracks covering our new products, features, and applications along with exciting keynotes and lectures, a large and dynamic exhibit hall chock full of cool demonstrations by our engineering teams and partner companies, all topped off with fun events for networking and relaxing.  It is held each year in Austin (NI's home city) and we host over 3000 people - most of who are applying LabVIEW in their work as scientists or engineers.

For the biomedical community, we will have poster presentations and awards for the best life sciences applications, exhibitors like MoviMED who specialize in biomedical imaging and signal processing applications, and a great technical program covering a range of topics like robotics, machine vision, and embedded design (including FPGA programming and real-time systems).  Specific presentations that highlight biomedical applications include "LabVIEW and Neuroscience", describing an application for automating the preparation of brain slices for neuroscience research, and a session titled "How CompactRIO Can Teach Babies to Suck" which reviews the development process for a new pediatric medical instrument built using LabVIEW and CompactRIO, plus many others.

I hope to see you in Austin for this great annual event - I can guarantee that you will walk away with a new perspective on what can be done with our tools and technology and you will have fun in the process!

Steve

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National Instruments has enjoyed a great deal of success working with the life sciences community over the years.  From simply providing a high performance and open instrument control solution for automating multiple instruments and peripherals (GPIB) to high-accuracy and cost-effective measurement boards for chromatography or datalogging (DAQ).  More recently, our FPGA and real-time embedded control products have been instrumental in the development of novel medical devices for cancer treatment and diagnostic applications.  NI's high-performance and flexible I/O hardware coupled to the graphical programming and signal processing strengths of LabVIEW have made for a very natural application of these tools to the life and analytical sciences.  However, none of the hardware or software was expressly designed for this community or these applications.  Our vision products (frame grabbers, image processing and analysis software, etc. were really designed primarily for industrial imaging applications, but they have proven to be very powerful when applied to cellular imaging as well.  Our PXI platform was really designed as a powerful and flexible automated electronics test platform - but it is currently used in a number of amazing biomedical applications including a magnetoencephalographic (MEG) system and commercial CT imaging system.

So...what if we were to design functions, features, or whole products for the biomedical industry?  Are we missing key features or functionality that could further accelerate innovation in the life sciences, whether it be basic research, early functional prototypes of novel new systems, or rapid commercialization of proven ideas?  I'd like to hear your ideas!

Steve

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Wow - how about that for a blog title?

I just got done reading a really amazing essay in Technology Review (MIT's magazine covering innovation and emerging technologies).  It's my favorite magazine for monitoring cool new technology and research (OK - I'm a little biased).

The article was written by David Deamer, a Research Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz.  His essay chronicles the research going into the understanding of how life began on Earth and describes some of the new technologies being used to essentially synthesize life (or basic life processes at this point) at the molecular level.  They are able to get mixtures of lipids to self assemble into membranes and even spherical vesicles that can contain DNA like molecules.  Other researchers are getting RNA in bulk to self-select in a kind of Darwinian process, demonstrating that given the right conditions (and conditions that were certainly feasible during Earth's early history), normally occurring selective processes could have led to the creation of molecules that were supportive of continued evolution. All of these discoveries are leading to attempts to combine these various elements into the beginnings of a man-made cell, cobbled together from bits and pieces of stuff that could have been naturally occurring during the prebiotic era on Earth.  This all kind of conjours images of early 20th-century horror movies, but instead of a crudely stitched-together human on the table, there is a small vial of microscopic protocells that are being coaxed into "life".

All kidding aside- this is fascinating stuff.  And if nothing else, the article is a really good primer on the basic components and processes that are needed to satisfy our definition of life.

The article is in the current issue (May/June 2009) - you can get it on newstands or I'm pretty sure you can sign up for an electronic version on-line.

Steve

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The use of simulators for teaching students is on the rise.  Some concepts are very difficult to grasp when presented in a static paper or wideboard media.  Sometimes it's more an issue of cost - laboratory equipment, supplies, space, and the time needed to setup and demonstrate the real thing.  In the medical world, very often the problems are compounded by ethical issues like the use of animals for laboratory studies.  Given all these reasons, we are seeing increasingly sophisticated simulations systems coming to use - some software only and others incorporating physical models of the whole body or organ systems.  Check out this Youtube video of a cardiac simulator controlled with LabVIEW (if link is broken, search for video on Youtube from user "realitymedical":

I've always thought that LabVIEW would make a great tool for developing models and simulations for biological systems.  I'm going to be on the look-out for more great examples like this one and I'm hoping to collect some LabVIEW code here that we can share for demonstrating common biological systems.  How about a Hodgkin-Huxley simulator written in LabVIEW?  Anesthesia simulator?  Other ideas?

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Welcome to the Biomedical Users Group!  I'm an NI employee with a keen interest in the application of our tools to problems in biomedical research and medical device design.  Much of my industry background (some 20+ years) has been involved in the design and development of products used in both research and for clinical applications, primarily in the neurosciences.  Back in the '90s I was a customer of NI's and was able to successfully develop a commercial data acquisition and analysis tool built on LabVIEW.  The success of that product led to a more ambitious clinical EEG system that successfully achieved FDA clearance - perhaps the first LabVIEW application to jump that hurdle.

Today we see many amazing applications of LabVIEW and other NI technology in biomedical applications ranging from automated cellular imaging and sorting, to laser eye surgery, to minimally invasive surgical devices and even medical robotics.  The natural strengths of LabVIEW to work with real signals, perform complex processing, and display results in intuitive and innovative ways is a perfect fit in this world.  Coupled with the truly game changing performance and reliability of FPGA technology and LabVIEW becomes a single tool that can truly span the needs of the whole biomedical engineering and scientific community.

With the help of this forum I help that we can build an active community of experts, novices, veterans, skeptics, champions, and everything in between.  This is a great way to for you to share ideas, solve problems, find related products, express frustration, show off your latest success, or maybe even make some connections.

So let's share - what are you doing with NI tools and technology?