Troubleshooting / Problem Solving

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Troubleshooting connectivity issues with Bluetooth

Basic Information

The Enobio/StarStim NECBOX connects to the computer using the windows bluetooth stack. It is important to check if the computer has the Windows stack installed and working. This is not obvious when:

The computer is a Toshiba Laptop (it might use the Toshiba Stack)
The computer has Windows XP (The stack depends on the dongle used)

If the computer has integrated bluetooth hardware, the system shall be used with their integrated bluetooth. Do not use the provided dongle in a computer that has integrated bluetooth (such as a Mac).

Some known problems and solutions:

In Windows, after a certain time, the device doesn't connect anymore : remove the bluetooth device from the BT device manager and remove the associated COM ports from the device manager. Let NIC install them again.

When connecting to a new device, some computers show a message "a Bluetooth device is trying to connect". The user should click on this message and validate the connection. This message might be hidden, so the user should check on the bluetooth icon from Windows.

In Mac OS you may need to allow the system to run NIC. If needed (the system will ask you or tell you that app is not allowed), go to System Preferences as an administrator / Security & Privacy, and check the box Allowing apps downloaded from anywhere.

With some newer Mac laptops, bluetooth connectivity is affected by Wifi (seem like Apple is now using a single antenna for both bluetooth and wifi), so Wifi must be turned off while you use NIC. You can still use regular ethernet via cable, however (you may need to get a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adaptor).

With Maverick (the latest OS X release as of Nov 2013) and NIC v1.2.10 or before, you will need to disable the App Nap feature for NIC. In order to do this, open a Terminal and type

defaults write com.yourcompany.NIC  NSAppSleepDisabled -bool YES

Later versions of NIC will fix this transparently.

Another common problem in Mac is that sometimes the device is not recognized in NIC, but when you go to the Bluetooth configuration you can see that the device connects and disconnects continuously, or it appears under the name "WT12-A". If this happens, follow these steps:

1- Turn off Enobio/Starstim off

2- Close NIC

3-Disable the Bluetooth

4-Open Finder, click Go (at the top of the screen), then click Go to Folder. Type or copy/paste /Library/Preferences and click Go. In the Preferences directory locate a file named com.apple.Bluetooth.plist and delete it.

5-Click Go again (at the top of the screen), click Go to Folder again and this time type or copy/paste ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost and click Go. In the ByHost folder locate a file that begins with com.apple.Bluetooth and delete it. This file will begin with com.apple.Bluetooth and have some random capital letters and numbers at the end.

6-Turn on Bluetooth

EEG recording issues

CMSDRL.jpg

If you find noisy signals even after waiting for a few minutes for the electrochemistry to stabilize, check first the DRL/CMS electrode placement. If all electrode signals are noisy you may have a bad DRL/CMS setup.

First, clean up the mastoid area where you are going to attach the CMS/DRL electrodes. You can use a paper napkin with some water or alcohol. Removing the grease and drying the skin will help you to get a good signal. Place the StickTrode adhesive electrodes close to each other with the DRL on the bottom, as shown in the figure. Ensure that the two electrodes are not touching each other. The CMS electrode should be on top of the mastoid bone to avoid contamination from blood vessels (ECG like signals).

You should also ensure you have a reasonable battery charge (>20%).

If a single channel is at fault, add more gel (unless you are using a DryTrode) and try to establish a good mechanical contact between the electrode and the scalp, removing some hair if you can. If this still does not work, try replacing the electrode using a new (or othewise well-behaved one).

If the problem persists, you may have cabling issue. Try to swap cables across two electrodes (one behaving well, the other bad) to see if the problem follows the cable or the electrode.

If you have a NE Testboard, you can check that the NECBOX is functioning properly by connecting it to the testboard and observing signal quality in all electrodes. If a channel is misbehaving, contact our Technical Support (support@neuroelectrics.com).

Stimulation issues

Problem: the impedance check returns high values of impedance

The impedance of the stimulation channels can be measured by NIC. This feature is available for StarStim devices but not for Enobio devices. The impedance bar appears below the icons of the stimulation channels and its color depends on the obtained value:

green: [0 - 10] kOhm

orange: [10 - 15] kOhm

red: [10 - 15] kOhm

We always recommend running the impedance check before launching a stimulation protocol. If the impedance is too high (red tab), it is probably related to the setup. Below are some suggestions to follow in case of high impedances:

- move the hair to ensure the contact between the electrode and the scalp

- make sure the hair is clean and free of sprays, oils, cream and lotions. Shampoo your hair and rinse with clear water the evening before or the morning of the test. Avoid hair conditioner or oil

- add more gel/saline solution to the electrodes

- check that the DRL/CMS electrodes are correctly placed

- ensure that you have a reasonable battery charge (>20%)

Note that impedance depends on skin type and can vary quite a bit across individuals.

Normally the measured impedances of the impedance check might be higher before stimulation, but when the experiment starts after some time they might fall down. This is normal (stimulation can itself lower impedance).

For safety reasons, the impedance is measured by NIC while stimulation is ongoing. If the impedance is too high, the stimulation session will self-abort.

Using the NE Testboard

A good tool for debugging is our testboard (contact us if you want one). This board connects to your NECBOX and allows to test different system functionalities as well as discard problem areas.

A NE device connected to a testboard will respond as a system properly placed in a subject, with a very similar electrical environment, that is why we refer to it as an “artificial head”.


Neuroelectrics testboard
Connection to NECBOX using flat cable (to test NECBOX)


Using the testboard for EEG testing

Suppose that you have a very noisy channel and you have already tried to replace the electrodes (electrodes can be damaged by dirt, light and contact with metals) obtaining the same result. Is the problem related to electrode’s contact, to the cables or to the device itself?

You can use the testboard to record EEG and test your NECBOX. Use the flat cable connector to connect your device to the testboard, you should see small EEG signals, with an amplitude around 10 µV. If you are able to see such signal, it means that your device is working properly. If you see larger signals, there might be an issue related to your device.

Once discarded a problem with the NECBOX, use the connectors on the testboard to assess the integrity of the cables. Connect two channels to the connectors of the testboard labeled as P1 and P2 and the CMS and DRL electroes to P3 and P4. This test will allow the user to assess the integrity of each channel.

Connection to NECBOX using clip connectors with cable harness (to test NECBOX+harness)

In summary, a possible approach to troubleshooting bad EEG signals in a channel is:

1 - Improve the contact between the electrodes and the scalp and try to replace the electrodes

If this does not solve the problem,

2 - Test the cables using the connectors on the testboard. 

If the problem is not related to the cables,

3 - Test the NECBOX using the the testboard (connect it to the device using the flat cable) 

If this fails, contact us.

Using the testboard for stimulation testing

Simply connect your testboard to your Starstim device using the flat cable, program your protocol and launch it to ensure everything is working as you expect. If you want to check the currents injected, you can use resistors R1 to R8 - they are all in series with each channel cable (using Ohm's law, V=IxR). Just measure the potential drop across a resistor with a voltmeter, and divided the result by 4 kOhm to get the current through that cable in mA. Since the precision of resistor resistance is 5%, you can use a digimeter to measure the resistance as well for more precision.

If you have problems with some electrode impedance, use the clip connector setup described above to test it.

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