Now, it's no secret that I'm a big fan of the little FPGA/USB Modules from Opal Kelly. Let's say you are creating your own super dooper electronic product perhaps a mega-cool machine vision system, for example and you want to control this little rascal from your PC and also transfer data back and forth. Rather than designing this part of the system yourself, you can simply plug in one of Opal Kelly's FPGA/USB Modules. In addition to handling all of the USB communications for you, you can also do a lot of pre-processing of the data on the FPGA.
Well, I just heard that the little scamps at Opal Kelly have added a rather interesting case study to their website. This features a company called Plexon a pioneer and leading innovator of custom, high performance solutions for data acquisition, behavioral research and advanced analysis specifically designed for neuroscience research.
A "hot" trend in neuroscience is the emerging field of optogenetics. This advanced technique gives researchers unprecedented control and allows them to specifically activate or inhibit subgroups of neurons within the brain.
Initially, optogenetic research was done using lasers as the light source. But the lasers used were expensive, had unstable output levels, and had relatively short lifetimes. Plexon wanted to expand the accessibility of optogenetic tools to more brain and nervous system researchers and replace lasers with a less expensive and more stable research instrument. They determined that using LEDs instead of lasers to generate light could provide much lower cost, longer lasting, and more stable solutions. Plexon needed to design a high power computer controlled current source for driving the LEDs.
Plexon developed the Optogenetic Controller, leveraging two custom boards created by the Plexon team, with an Opal Kelly XEM6001 module with USB interface in the middle (the Opal Kelly module is the small green board towards the middle-left of the image below).
I have to tell you that I'm interesting in all of this stuff -- from the way in which the brain works, to the electronic systems used to stimulate the brain then detect and analyze the data.
If you want to learn more, Click Here
to bounce over to the Opal Kelly site to peruse and ponder the full case study.
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