Hardware – Amplifiers

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Answers to your Questions

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Training-Related Questions
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I think the most important thing you can do in buying a new computer is to get RAM!

BioExplorer

You can install BioExplorer onto as many computers as you’d like.  Whichever computer has the hasp key plugged in will work.

Tip for preserving the HASP key:  There is a very simple solution–or better, prevention–to this problem.  Don’t plug the hasp into your computer!  Get a nice USB hub for $10 or $15.  Plug your hasp into that. Then plug your dongle (if using a Pendant or Optima) or your USB cable (if using a Focus or Alpha Amp) into it.  If you are using a USB battery charger, plug that into the hub.  Your whole system uses ONE USB port.

Several other benefits:  when you move from one computer to another, the whole thing goes together–hasp, dongles, chargers, etc; it’s difficult to lose that whole chunk of stuff (whereas hasps by themselves are easy to lose; and, because you aren’t plugging and unplugging the hasp over and over, it doesn’t break! Even if you bump your computer on a desk edge, which broke one of mine when it was in a laptop, the hasp stays fine.

System Requirements

 Windows vs. Apple

BioExplorer (BE) was written for Windows.  Almost all recent Macs include an Intel chip along with the Mac chip. You can run a program like bootcamp, which will allow you to install Windows and the Mac operating system side by side.  You’ll be able to switch back and forth.  If you really have a bunch of stuff to do that you feel will be worth the extra cost of a Mac, this will work fine (using your NF stuff on the Windows side.)  There are a couple irritants I’ve run into–the biggest is that it’s not easy to RIGHT-click with a mac mouse, so a lot of windows functions are harder to access.
Computer specs for BioExplorer

Video Drivers, etc.

The media files are all on the LearningCurveDesigns yahoo group, in the Files area.  If you have purchased the brain-trainer Design Package (or QuickStart package), you have access to the group and its files.

Adding a DVD Player Object

You can easily enough change to the DVD player object:
In the Window menus, choose Signal Diagram.
In the Design menu, choose Add Object and select DVD Player.
The DVD Player box will appear in the upper left corner of the Signal Diagram
Drag it to the spot where the Windows Media Player object is and park it directly below.
Draw the same arrow connections to the DVD player that are visible in the WM player object.
Open the properties for the WM player and note how they are set in each tab.
Open the properties for the DVD player and set those to the same values.
Now you can right-click on the WM Player box and choose Delete.
Go to Windows: Insturments1 and find the DVD Player window. Right click on it and choose Switch Windows.
Go to Windows Instruments 2 and move and size the DVD player to the appropriate space.
Make sure to go to the BioExplorer menu, choose Preferences, select the DVD Player tab, and set your Audio and Video decoders from the drop-down lists.

Compatibility issues

You can run the Atlantis in BioExplorer, though you’ll have to pay an additional $100 to BrainMaster to get one of their “unlock codes”.   Also, if you are using a 4-channel Atlantis, you’ll only be able to use BioExplorer with 2 of them–BrainMaster creates this limitation.

About Amplifiers

EEG amplifiers are differential amplifiers. They amplify the difference between what is seen at one electrode (active) and what is seen at the other (reference).

The amplifier gets the information from the electrodes through the sampling rate.  There is a rule of digital signal processing called the Nyquist Theorem, which says that you must sample at least twice the highest frequency you want to measure.  So, if you hope to train up to 40 Hz in the EEG, the Nyquist Theorem would say you should have a sampling rate of at least 80 sps (samples per second).  Obviously, if that’s true, then even an old BrainMaster or a Pocket A3, which sample at 122 have more than enough sampling speed.  I think most trainers would agree, though, that 256 is the desired sampling rate for EEG.  The J&J or Infiniti sample at 1024, but they do NOT sample EEG at that rate.  Those very high rates are specifically for very fast frequencies like EMG.  If you sample EEG at 1024, you will get a very strange looking signal.  256 is the standard that almost every new amplifier uses for EEG.

Now the amplifier performs a function called analog to digital conversion: turning the waveforms (analog) of a traditional EEG tracing into numerical (digital) data.  The 12-bit (Pendant), 16-bit (QDS, J&J) and 24-bit (maybe someday Atlantis), don’t speed up or slow down the signal.  They are a measure of resolution.  Again, the 24-bit is probably used for faster signals like EMG. It’s like buying a digital camera that has 12 megapixels vs. buying one with 4 megapixels.  With the 12mp camera you could enlarge the photograph to 80X100cm and it would still be very sharp.  With the 4mp camera you could only have a very sharp picture as big as your computer screen.  So how much resolution do you need?  How much can you actually see the difference?  Certainly an 8-bit amplifier, of the sort we used for many years, is not terribly precise, though it can still be very accurate.  Let’s say that you are measuring with a ruler.  If you measure a piece of wood with one measure, you can see cm.  With a higher resolution, you can see mm.  Higher resolution, you can see nanometers.  The question here is, if you were able to measure in the amplifier at the level of nanometers, but your computer monitor could only show to the level of millimeters, what is the benefit?

Then the amplifier sends the information to the software to be processed.  This is what bits per second or baud rates measure.  The faster the bits per second and baud rate are, the wider the channel for data and the faster the data is moving through that channel–like cars through a tunnel.  The Pendant (38400 baud) and the QDS (57600 baud) are the two fastest amplifiers of which I’m aware that work in BioExplorer.

You might also want to keep an eye on bandwidth.  How low can an amplifier read?  How high can it read?  Do you think you might do very low frequency training or Slow Cortical Potential training?  If so, then you may want to look at the PET or the QDS, which go down to about 0.01 Hz and up well above 60 Hz.

The bottom line is probably this: it would be difficult to buy a new amplifier that works with BioExplorer that was not capable of providing a very trainable signal in terms of speed and accuracy.  If you avoid slowing things down too much with the software, the rest of the numbers may primarily be marketing (like a car that has 400 horsepower that you drive back and forth to work at 30 miles per hour).

Q-wiz

Amplifiers - Q-wiz

The Q-wiz is an amplifier, like a Pendant or an Optima, has a driver in BioExplorer, uses standard electrodes and can use most of the brain-trainer designs and can use the TQ7 assessment.  It differs in that, in addition to doing 2 channels of EEG, it can do 4 channels.  It can also do either pIR or nIR HEG training using standard HEG headbands, and it has a 25-pin connector plug so the cap plugs into it directly without requiring the interface board. With the latest version of BE, you can do a complete 20-channel assessment in less than half an hour, including artifacting and loading into the assessment.

Updating Firmware

If the WIZ is connected and you move it to Program mode, it will show Connecting.  In program mode it is “offline” for signals, though it can still communicate with the computer.  Just go ahead and open the Properties window and move to the PN Wiz tab to click Update Firmware.  Navigate in the window that opens to the update file and select it.  The update will take place and end with Succeeded.  Then you can close out of the windows.

If you have downloaded and installed the beta4 update of BioExplorer, the window will be different, offering tabs for settings and multiplexer and giving you the option of minimizing it.

It’s very simple to update your unit.

1. Download the update file somewhere you can find it on your computer.

2. Put the Q-wiz in program mode.  Press the mode button on top of the unit, then count the number of blinks of the green Mode light.  After mode4, the next click should turn off the Transmit LED in the upper left corner of the unit, and you’re in Program mode.

3. With the unit plugged into the USB on your computer, open BioExplorer and make sure the Q-wiz is the selected device and showing Connected in the black status bar across the top of the BE screen. Often unplugging then replugging the cable from the Q-wiz will result in it connecting.

4. RIGHT-click on Q-wiz in the status bar and choose Properties to open the Properties window.  Click the WIZ tab at the top of the window.

5. Click the button to Upload Firmware and navigate to the update file where you saved it and click Open.  You should see rows of numbers entering in the window below the Upload Firmware button and after 45 seconds or so, it should see SUCCEEDED.

6. Click OK and close back out of BioExplorer.

7. Click the Mode button again until you have returned to the mode you are using.

Optima

Amplifiers - Optima

The Neurobit Optima comes with electrodes, paste, prep (alcohol pads and tissue, in case you are living somewhere you can’t find those!).  I can’t tell from looking at the electrodes, but usually the ones sent with a unit like this are very cheap and don’t last long before they start to lose their plating.  You will probably need to buy new electrodes very soon.

The Neurobit Optima has a bandwidth to 100 Hz, but what you would ever use it for is beyond me.  The Pendant or Pocket can go to 56 Hz–well beyond the frequency you would ever train. The Neurobit can sample up to 1024 times per second, compared to 512 for the Pendant–but here again, the speed you will use for EEG training is 256, so the difference means nothing.

Neurobit Optima doesn’t mention its bit rate or baud (the speeds at which signals are sent to the computer), so we can’t really compare those.  They do offer automatic measuring of electrode impedance as well as “automatic artifact rejection”.  They tell you that you don’t need to prep sites before putting on electrodes, which normally would mean that your electrode impedance (the resistance to flow of electrical information between the scalp and the electrode) would be very high, so I’m not sure how the impedance measure would work.  And I’m always a little cautious of “automatic artifacting”, since it has the potential to remove real EEG signals.  Anyone who has ever manually artifacted an EEG file knows that it’s hard enough to do with your “best brain” turned on.  Usually these “automatic” systems simply set a maximum for total EEG readings and cut out everything above them.

Determining Channels

Optima users need to get comfortable with the fact that the unit doesn’t necessarily know how many channels you are using.

If you haven’t done this yet, especially those of you with 4C units, go to http://www.neurobitsystems.com/download/Neurobit_Runtime-versions.htm

Download the latest version of the BioExplorer drivers into your BE folder.

Unpack them and move the files out into the BioExplorer folder, replacing those which are there.

Then you’ll Configure the Optima (restarting BioExplorer) by turning on Channel 1 and setting it to EEG, then using one of the buttons on the bottom of the screen (there’s Load and, I think, Save on the bottom left), saving it as 1C.  Then do the same, adding channel 2 and save it as 2C.  Then do the same with channels C and D and save as 4c.

Before you start a session, decide whether it will be 1 or 2 or 4C, Open the properties window and Configure Optima and click Load to choose the proper file (1C, 2C or 4C).

That should stop the beeping, which is the Optima telling you it’s not getting decent signals in channels where it expects them.

Virtual Ground

VG, the top white plug in the center of the Optima 4C electrode panel, is Virtual Ground.  Your one ground always goes there.  The lower white plus is for use with peripheral feedback sensors (temperature, GSR, HRV, etc.)

I don’t use peripheral, since I can train directly in the center of the system with brain training, but when you RIGHT-click on the Optima listed in the black status bar and choose Properties, you’ll open the Optima Config window. You’ll have the option of choosing the various channels, to activate them and tell the Optima what type of signal you are using (usually either EEG or EEG250).  However, you can set the 5th channel to a variety of other input options.

 Jumper Cable

The jumper is 2 plugs or 4, depending on which version of the Optima you have.  The 4C version may appear to have two plugs, but there are two others plugged into the other two.

Jumpers are ALWAYS used between the references (the – sites, black plugs on the Optima). They are used for linked ear training or assessments.  If you have a 4C optima, insert the plug on one end of the chain (which has an input plug on it) into A-, then plug the second and third plugs (without inputs) into the B- and C- sites on the Optima and finally place the other end plug (with an input) into D-.  You can then plug one reference (for Common References like F3/A1/g/C3/A1) into either input or place both references into the two inputs for symmetry, synchrony or assessment for Linked-ear (defined with (L) on the training plan) references

Optima Disappearing from Devices

It’s happened to me multiple times, and here are the things that have worked for me (with a bit of patience and willingness to repeat steps sometimes)

1. RIGHT-click your Bluetooth icon in the System Tray and choose SHOW DEVICES.

2. In the window that opens, RIGHT-click the Serial Port device (which is the Optima) and Remove Device.

3. In the Control Panel, Uninstall Programs and choose BioExplorer.  Uninstall completely

4. Download the BioExplorer installer for 1.6 beta2 (cyberevolution.com/download.htm ) and run it to reinstall the software. Don’t need to re-install hasp drivers.

5. Go to http://www.neurobitsystems.com/download/Neurobit_Runtime-versions.htm and download version 3.2.3 for BioExplorer into your BioExplorer folder (in Program Files (x86)). Leave BioExplorer closed.

6. Navigate to the BioExplorer folder and unzip the folder Neurobit_Runtime_Pro_3_2_3.  Copy the files from inside the unzipped folder and paste them into the BioExplorer folder, replacing the files already there.

7. RIGHT-click the Bluetooth icon and choose Add a Device

8. Place the Optima near the computer and turn it on. Wait for Bluetooth to find and install it as Serial Port Device.

9. When this has happened, double-click the icon for Serial Port Device and choose to link it using a code.

10. The code to enter is 0000 (four zeroes).

11. Close the Bluetooth window and open BioExplorer.

12. Go to BioExplorer menu/Add Device and choose Neurobit Optima (2 or 4 depending on which you have).

13. If the window opens with the Config button, go ahead and configure the Optima, and it should appear.

Lost Bluetooth

If you are for some reason without your Bluetooth dongle, the simplest thing would be to see if you could get Bluetooth installed on your computer at a computer shop without a dongle.  If not, what Neurobit told me is the following:

“The model of BT adapter, which we deliver, is surely not available in USA stores. But there is no special programming in that adapter and many other BT dongle models can be used with Optima. But not all.

Requirements for Bluetooth-USB dongle:
1. It should work with Bluetooth drivers by Microsoft, which are already included in Windows (from XP SP2) and are installed automatically. Such dongles have no attached CD with drivers (or there are only attached drivers for XP and older systems).
2. Of course, destination version of Windows should be listed on the dongle package among supported operating systems. (Sometimes older dongles can also work in newer systems not mentioned on the package, but it is better to make sure.)
Other specifications, such as Bluetooth protocol version, maximum speed etc., are not important in this application. Such dongles should be available at least in some US computer stores, and salesclerks should be able to help choose a product fulfilling above requirements.”

The pairing code is 0000 (4 zeros).

Focus

The USB version of the Focus can go from 0.01 Hz to 45 hz.  The 9-volt battery version went up to 120Hz.  The limitation is in BioExplorer, which can go down to 0.1 Hz.

The Focus has a channel 1 and a channel 2, each with a + (active) and – reference plug.  Between the 2 channels is a ground.  If you are doing 1 channel training, you must always plug into channel 1 first.  The electrode you are placing over the brain goes into the Active plug.  You may choose to put both ear clips on and plug one (usually the one on the same side of the head as your active electrode) into the reference plug for channel 1.  You can then use the other ear as your ground.  You must have 3 electrodes for one channel training.  You can do 2-channel training with 5 electrodes (a second active and reference would go into the plugs for channel 2.)

You might use the standard head leads for your actives in channels 1 and 2, use your ear clips for the references in channels 1 and 2 and use the third head electrode anywhere on the head for the ground.

Make sure the Focus is AWAY from anything electronic.  Putting the amp in the client’s lap, or attaching it behind the client’s chair, usually helps resolve this.  It should not be close to the monitor, AC adaptors or computer.  If you’re using a laptop, try unplugging the adaptor from the wall and running on battery.  Impedances are one thing.  Electrode offset can be another. Use electrodes all with the same metal and about the same age.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the folks who have purchased QDS equipment from brain-trainer since we started carrying it have had problems getting good signals.  The main point is that you don’t really NEED an impedance meter when you use the QDS, because without the big front-end impedance, you’ll see immediately if you have a good connection or not.

USB to Serial Adaptor

Here is an excellent adaptor that includes a 64-bit driver for Windows 7, will plug directly into your Focus serial port (doesn’t require a serial/serial cable), so if you want more than 1 meter extension, you can use a USB/USB cable. It uses the Prolific chip, and it costs a whopping $18.  http://www.beaglesoft.com/232usb.htm

The download for driver for 64-bit is http://www.prolific.com.tw/eng/downloads.asp?ID=31
You can try that with your current Prolific cable (since it is released by Prolific, it may work).

Pendant

Setting up Electrodes

Red are active (outside red is channel one, inside red is channel 2)
Black are reference (the one beside the active is the reference for that channel).
Green is ground.

Pendant and BioExplorer

In the status bar (black bar across the top of the screen) of BioExplorer there are three signal quality indicators:  CH1, CH2 and Sync Errors.

CH1 should be green when you are training it. If not, in indicates there is probably a bad connection or electrode in that channel.  Re-prep and replace the electrode(s)–active and reference–until you get a green CH1.

If you are doing 2 channels, then both CH1 and CH2 should be green.  (Obviously if you don’t have electrodes in channel 2 it’s no problem if it is showing red).

Sync error relates to communication between the Pendant and its dongle.  BE expects 256 bits of data each second to be coming through the dongle.  When something less than that comes, BE warns you that something is interfering with the synchronization of the communication.  Most commonly this is the trainer or the client.  The Pendant and dongle should be able to “see” each other directly.  When you lean between them or put an arm between them to point something out on the screen, it’s not uncommon for that to interfere and cause sync error to blink on.  If you place the Pendant on the client’s shirt collar or shoulder on the same side of him/her that the dongle is on–and maybe you sit on the other side–that should minimize these errors.  If you place the pendant behind the client, blocked by the body, or with the desk, etc. interfering with its line of sight, there’s greater chance of sync errors.

When sync errors get serious enough to last for several seconds, even slowing down or stopping the display in BE, something else is probably wrong.  Most common in my experience (but remember I often do workshops with 6 or 7 pendants in the same room running at the same time) is another Pendant/dongle combination.  Could be you forgot to turn off the HEG Pendant when you turned on the EEG.  Both will try to link up with the dongle and cause sync errors.  With multiple pendants in a training area, you can reset them to different channels.  This can also be the solution in the rare case that some other device is trying to communicate on the same RF channel the Pendant and dongle are using.

 Failure to Connect

If the Pendant is not blinking, that could mean simply that it’s in program mode instead of training mode, in which case it’s not hard to fix.  Many times the failure to connect is related to installation problems with the dongle (often people don’t perform the final steps to make sure Windows is handling the data coming from that COM port correctly).

My experience with the Pendant dongle has been that once it syncs up, the range is up to about 15 feet if the line of sight is unobstructed. The further away you are, the easier it seems to be to break the signal, but it can be pretty stable.

Dongles

The memory stick that came with the Pendant should be used to install the Dongle driver, but I’d try the BE install direct from the cyberevolution website.

Use one dongle.  A dongle is a dongle is a dongle.  Turn on your EEG Pendant, and it should connect with the dongle. Turn if off and turn on the HEG, and IT should connect.  Of course you need to make sure the two Pendants and the dongle are all flashing the same number of times (to be on the same channel), but it sure simplifies your life.

If you have been using the EEG Pendant and it is connecting, DON’T CHANGE THE DONGLE; that dongle is already installed and Windows shouldn’t have to re-install it when you plug it in unless you put it in a port you’ve never used it in before.  You should have only one dongle on your computer, no matter how many you have (keep the rest in storage) or how many Pendants you have.

Determining Channel

Right-click on the Pendant EEG in the black status bar across the top of the BE screen and choose Properties
Drop down the list of COM ports and choose the last one that appears.
Check the number of blinks your dongle is making
Check the number of blinks the HEG Pendant is making (both should be the same).