Multi-subject Experiment Control and Monitoring System

By: Ntt  09-12-2011
Keywords: Workstations, Console

Multi-subject Experiment
Control and Monitoring System

MECM is a system used by researchers to run, monitor, and control multi-subject experiments in a laboratory environment. It consists of two main components: an experimenter's console and multiple subject workstations. Work, in the form of computer-based tasks, is delivered to subjects at their workstations in accordance with a predefined protocol. The experimenter can monitor subjects' progress, adjust the protocol as required, and remotely suspend and restart the delivery of work. The system is robust, being able to recover from hardware and software failures at either the console or one or more workstations. A timestamped log is maintained at each workstation that can be used to document the history of task presentations.

NTT developed MECM and its associated cognitive task battery to support DCIEM's SUSOPS (sustained operations, sleep deprivation) research needs. SUSOPS experiments are characterized by:

      • Long run times (typically 48 to 100 hours)
      • Multiple concurrent subjects
      • High reliability requirements
      • Need to adjust protocols during runs
Our approach has been refined with each generation as the system developed from a multi-subject PDP-11 system to the DIGITAL VAX platform and then to a single subject, portable PC/Windows system.

MECM, our newest version, is commercially available. It has been used successfully for both long and short duration experiments and includes the following features:

      • Experimenter's console
        • Graphical display of subject/workstation status
        • Ability to display protocols (scripts) and cancel/reschedule upcoming tasks
        • Ability to suspend/resume dispatching at selected workstations
        • Ability to terminate currently running tasks
        • Online note taking and display system
      • Subject workstation
        • Dispatches tasks in accordance with experimental protocol
        • Implements functions requested by the experimenter at the control station
        • Logs all dispatch events, error messages, and experimenter commands
      • Support for multiple subjects
      • Workstations and Experimenter station can be connected via LAN, intranet, or internet
      • Sophisticated failure detection and recovery system


Keywords: Console, Workstations