The Unified Suite for Experiments (USE) is a software and hardware solution for the development, management, and analysis of dynamic, video-game-like behavioral neuroscience experiments. ACCL has used USE to develop a number of experiments with human, nonhuman primate, and artificial agent participants, using many different response paradigms (joystick, touchscreen, response pad, keyboard, gaze-contigent displays) and different recording techniques (single-unit, EEG, ECOG) in a variety of settings.

Based in Unity3D, one of the most popular game engines in the world, the novel state-based design system allows the rapid creation of experiments that include elements such as realistic three-dimensional images and animation, continuous input, and complex tasks with a high degree of ecological validity. The Arduino-based USE SyncBox enables sub-millisecond synchronization of monitor frame onsets, participant responses, and hardware such as eyetrackers or neural recording devices. USE was developed with translational research in mind, and the same experimental paradigm can quickly be modified for use with humans, nonhumans, and artificial agents.

All components of USE are open-source, and all are free with the exception of the I/O Box, for which we provide detailed schematics and hardware lists, and can be assembled for under $200.

Video of subject performing an example task.


A preprint of the article detailing USE (currently under submission) is available here.


Updated versions of all scripts and documentation for experiment creation are available for download from a Github repository.

USE SyncBox user guide.

STL files and parts list for the light sensor clamps.


Papers or presentations on studies coded with USE

Watson, M. R., Voloh, B., Naghizadeh, M., & Womelsdorf, T. (In Press). Quaddles: A multidimensional 3-D object set with parametrically controlled and customizable features. Behavior Research Methods. 

Oemisch, M., Watson, M. R., Womelsdorf, T., & Schubö, A. (2017). Changes of attention during value-based reversal learning are tracked by N2pc and feedback-related negativity. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 11, 7. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00540

Watson, M. R., Voloh, B., Thomas, C. J., & Womelsdorf, T. (2018). USE: An integrative suite for temporally-precise psychophysical experiments in virtual environments. bioRxiv, 434944. doi:10.1101/434944

Watson, M. R., Voloh, B., Naghizadeh, M., Chen, S., & Womelsdorf, T. (2017). Information sampling and object selection strategies demonstrate the learning and exploitation of feature relevance. Presented at the 2017 Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience. 

Watson, M. R., Voloh, B., & Womelsdorf, T. (2017). Eyetracking in the virtual world: A toolkit for frame-by-frame classification of gaze during experimental tasks presented using a 3D video-game engine. Presented at the Gordon Research Conference: Eye Movements — The Oculomotor System as a Model of Mind and Brain. Lewiston, Maine: Gordon Research Conferences.