We plan to provide software support services for Neuropixels probes, a groundbreaking new tool for recording electrical signals from the brain. These probes?which were created by IMEC, a world-renowned nanoelectronics research center, in collaboration with four funding agencies (HHMI, Allen Institute, Gatsby Foundation, and Wellcome Trust)?will become publicly available in July 2018. Each device consists of a single hair-like shank containing nearly 1000 recording sites, each of which can measure voltage changes with sub-millisecond precision. Not only can these probes simultaneously record action potentials from an order of magnitude more neurons than was previously possible, but the entire package is small enough to be mounted on the head of a freely moving rodent. Given the relatively low cost of these reusable probes, they will become a new standard for electrophysiology. In order to use Neuropixels for our own experiments, the Allen Institute made it possible to stream Neuropixels data into an existing open-source software package, Open Ephys. Funding for this proposal would allow us to hire personnel to provide community-wide support for the integration of Open Ephys and Neuropixels. Support functions would include responding to user requests, maintaining the source code, improving the documentation, and simplifying the processing of installing and upgrading the software. This would serve to make Neuropixels accessible to all laboratories, regardless of their prior experience with electrophysiology. In addition, we plan to gather software plugins developed by users, make them more robust, and disseminate them through a centralized repository. Open Ephys already has a global network of volunteer developers, which we plan to leverage to expand the features of this software. Throughout the process, we will engage with the community via interviews, surveys, conferences, and annual workshops. While our main focus will be on providing support services for Neuropixels users, our efforts will also benefit the broader electrophysiology community. The field is currently lacking open standards for data acquisition, analysis, and visualization, leading to a large amount of redundant development efforts across laboratories. Establishing long-term support for a flexible, powerful, and open-source software platform would provide a terrific foundation for future progress. Thanks to Open Ephys? modular plugin architecture, it will be easy to adapt when the next technological breakthrough occurs.
Our ability to decipher the root causes of mental disorders has been hindered by a lack of adequate tools for observing how brain cells communicate with one another. A new device, called Neuropixels, allows us to listen to these conversations in much greater detail than was previously possible, but it can only be used with the help of specialized software. We plan to provide support for such software, in order to make this powerful technology more accessible to researchers in all areas of neuroscience, opening up new opportunities to understand what?s going wrong when mental health deteriorates.