Remote Control Server 2: Control your EEG recording from your stimulus presentation software
by Dr. Thomas Emmerling
Scientific Consultant (Brain Products)
Our new Remote Control Server 2 (RCS), which is now available for download, is here to help automate many steps in your EEG recordings to make sure your data acquisition is as problem-free as possible. RCS is a free tool that allows the control of our recording software, BrainVision Recorder, from any stimulus presentation software. RCS works to automatize EEG recording sessions and reduces chances of user errors so that you can successfully execute your experiment without worrying about starting/stopping your recordings or even an unplugged amplifier! Let RCS take care of this, so you can worry about the big picture problems.
In order to successfully run an experiment, it is imperative that EEG data acquisition and stimulus presentation run in an integrated fashion. Beginning an EEG recording without starting the presentation of your experimental paradigm can lead to many errors and, in the worst case, data loss. Unfortunately, many of us know this feeling and the associated outcomes. For this reason, automatizing as many steps as possible along the way reduces the chances for error and maximizes the likelihood of successfully executing your experiment. The Remote Control Server 2 provided by Brain Products makes it easy to control our recording software, BrainVision Recorder, from any stimulus presentation software. Several new features have been implemented in the new version, including notifying the experimenter about recording errors as well as the possibility to send annotations to Recorder.
The RCS can be easily set up on the same computer running BrainVision Recorder. RCS listens on a network port for connecting clients and translates received messages into OLE commands for Recorder. An earlier version of this tool was released in 2012, however, we have updated it for modern Windows versions, improved the messaging protocol, and introduced new features. With these features, unnecessary errors are behind you and you are well on your way to hassle-free recordings.
As with the former version of the tool, one can initialize an EEG recording session (defining the workspace and filenames to be used) as well as use control commands to start, pause, resume and stop an EEG recording. This automation prevents human error and provides direct control of your EEG recording through stimulus presentation software like E-Prime®. E-Prime® makes use of these handy features in their newest toolbox “E-Prime® Extensions for Brain Products“, which makes syncing your E-Prime® presentation with our recording software a breeze.
A very powerful new feature of RCS is bidirectional communication between the client and the server: clients, like for example E-Prime®, can not only send messages to RCS but also get informed about unexpected changes in BrainVision Recorder without the need to request this information actively. This allows for maintaining information about the current Recorder mode (monitoring, impedance, test signal), the state of acquisition, and any acquisition error (if it occurred) in an asynchronous fashion (i.e., independent of your stimulus loops). These useful new features of RCS can be used to notify the experimenter of important user errors (i.e., accidentally paused a recording) or technical errors (i.e., a cable to the amplifier coming loose or unplugged) and react accordingly, for example, by pausing your stimulus presentation or gracefully shutting down the experiment without data loss.
There is no need to worry about mismatched participant codes and filenames anymore. EEG recordings can be initialized by providing filenames for Recorder Workspaces and EEG data (created from IDs for the experiment and the participant). The experimenter enters the participant ID only once and it is synced everywhere. Together with the default setting of file overwrite protection, this secures the integrity of your valuable datasets. No more mislabeled EEG files or overwritten recordings! This type of unparalleled data synchronization between recording and stimulus presentation software provides a new level of comfort and stability for the experimenter during data acquisition. One less thing to think about!
Do you need to mark blocks or other events in your EEG file? RCS is now able to receive annotation commands that are saved along your EEG data file, similar to a trigger marker. These annotations are not a substitute for the millisecond precise timing needed for ERP analysis where hardware triggers sent via the parallel port or the TriggerBox, are still the best choice. However, the annotation command can provide an additional way to tag your data with arbitrary text codes when timing is not critical, e.g., to define larger blocks of an experiment.
In recognizing the utility of this new tool, PST has implemented a client for RCS by releasing their new toolbox “E-Prime Extensions for Brain Products”. This E-Prime® toolbox now makes it even easier to set up your E-Prime® experiment and Brain Products EEG recording – it only involves a few clicks to ensure almost complete automation of your EEG recording! In principle, RCS can be used with any stimulus presentation software that is able to connect to a TCP/IP socket. In the installation files for RCS, a sample Remote Control Client (RCC) is provided in order to see what is possible and provide inspiration for those who wish to develop their own client. Programming examples and a complete documentation give a detailed overview of the implementation and the typical usage of a client for RCS. Please notice, that RCS is not a supported product but made available as a free add-on tool without official support by Brain Products.
The free Remote Control Server 2 download is available on our website.
Remote Control Client (RCC 2.0 dialog)