7/27/2005 - QNX Software Systems, the world's preeminent developer of realtime operating systems (RTOSs), announced that the company is powering cutting-edge research applications used by scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to measure vision and movement disorders in humans and animals.
The ability to guide physical movements under sensory control is one of the most critical of human abilities. Without it, people could not pick up a coffee cup, change their clothes, drive a car, return a serve in tennis, or perform hundreds of other everyday tasks. Disorders of this ability are devastating and cost billions of dollars in custodial health care annually. Scientists and doctors at NIH study how the brain handles these sensory-motor tasks, in both health and disease, to improve diagnostic procedures and develop new therapies for people and animals that lose those abilities.
"The experiments conducted by the neuroscientists in NIH laboratories are very complex and time-consuming, and so depend heavily on computers. They involve making measurements of many parameters at up to 40,000 times per second, so we need a realtime operating system, such as QNX Neutrino®, that can handle time-critical events in a very fast and highly predictable manner," said Lance Optican, Ph.D., acting chief, Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, at the National Eye Institute, NIH. "QNX develops the only realtime operating system that, because of its exceptional speed, consistency, and reliability, allows our scientists to observe activity in the brain while it is actually processing visual information and making movements."
At any given time, teams of neuroscientists at NIH are performing dozens of experiments that range in length from one month to several years. Some of this research is conducted on normal human subjects and patients, but to understand how the brain works requires direct observation of its activity while it is working. The brain has billions of individual neurons that each send out tiny electrical impulses at up to 1,000 times per second. These processes can be observed best in monkeys, but they are less cooperative than human subjects, and a lot harder to train! As a result, it is critical that the software responsible for collecting and monitoring these events does so quickly, predictably, and without losing any data.
Any downtime or mistakes in controlling the experiment or in collecting data can result in the research being invalidated, delayed, or repeated. Such losses are unacceptable, because NIH scientists want to make medical progress as swiftly as possible with the minimum wasted effort. That means having the best computing infrastructure available. Many labs at NIH use the Real-time Experimentation System (REX), which controls experiments and collects data from humans or animals, and the Multi-Unit Experimentation System (MEX), which collects and analyzes brain activity in monkeys. Applications like REX and MEX are developed in-house, and depend on the QNX Neutrino RTOS for ease of development and realtime performance.
"For 25 years, QNX Software Systems has built realtime operating systems that play a critical role in ensuring the safety and well-being of hundreds of millions of people around the world," according to Dan Dodge, president and CEO of QNX Software Systems. "We take great pride in having NIH acknowledge that the QNX Neutrino RTOS is helping to advance the understanding of human vision and improve on measures to prevent disease and trauma in future generations."
About U.S. National Institutes of Health
U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. Helping to lead the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people's health and save lives, NIH scientists investigate ways to prevent diseases by identifying their causes, treatments, and (hopefully) cures. Composed of 27 institutes and centers, NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world. For over a century, NIH has played an important role in improving the health of the nation. NIH traces its roots to 1887 with the creation of the Laboratory of Hygiene at the Marine Hospital in Staten Island, New York.
About QNX Software Systems
With millions of installations worldwide, QNX Software Systems is the global leader in realtime, microkernel operating system technology. Companies like Cisco, DaimlerChrysler, Lockheed Martin, Panasonic, Siemens, and General Electric rely on QNX technology to build ultra-reliable systems for the networking, automotive, medical, military, and industrial automation markets. Founded in 1980, QNX Software Systems has offices throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Visit www.qnx.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
QNX and Neutrino are registered trademarks of QNX Software Systems Ltd. in certain jurisdictions.
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