David Jangraw

Naturalistic Experimental Design Environment

NEDE: An Experimental Design Environment for Realistic Virtual Settings

Neuroscience endeavors to understand everyday human experience, but under the controlled conditions that make for good science. Running experiments in a virtual environment is a great way to balance realism and control, but the startup costs for virtual environment experiments are relatively high, as most people need to build a 3D environment and stimulus presentation scripting from scratch. To help lower the barrier to entry in this important field, we have created a suite of experimental design-focused programs on top of a user-friendly 3D game engine.

The Unity 3D game engine (a free and widely-used software package) serves as the base for our system, allowing the experimenter to create custom virtual environments in which to place their subjects and scripts. Our Naturalistic Experimental Design Environment (NEDE) adds a series of important scripts that allow for custom placement of custom 2D and 3D stimuli, randomized stimulus identities, automatic navigation, and the addition of a secondary task. These options are managed through a custom runtime GUI. The system also has a real-time interface with an eye tracker through a custom plugin, which allows for recalibration of eye position and a record of screen events and virtual positions on the precise clock of the eye tracker. The scripts are open-source, and Unity makes it easy to add new scripts to modify the experiment in any number of ways. The result is a straightforward, flexible system for conducting experiments in realistic virtual environments.

NEDE has now been released to the public and can be accessed at nede-neuro.org!


For More Information:

  • NEDE website and wiki
  • Jangraw et al. (2014) “NEDE: An Open-Source Scripting Suite for Developing Experiments in 3D Virtual 2014 Environments.” Journal of Neuroscience Methods, Available online 23 July 2014, ISSN 0165-0270,http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2014.06.033. doi
  • Jangraw and Sajda. (2011) “A 3-D Immersive Environment for Characterizing EEG Signatures of Target Detection.” Invited paper, 5th International IEEE/EMBS Conference on Neural Eng., Cancún, Mexico. abstract (pdf)  poster (pdf)
  • Jangraw and Sajda. (2011) “EEG Signatures of Target Detection in an Immersive 3-D Environment.” Accepted abstract, Human Brain Mapping Annual Meeting, Quebec City, Canada. poster (pdf)
  • Unity 3D Website
  • LIINC website