Kernel Tasks overview
  • 23 Sep 2021
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Kernel Tasks overview

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Article Summary

Tasks are predefined stimuli or instructions that you can present to a participant during a recording session. By using precise, repeatable tasks, you can ensure data are appropriately comparable across multiple sessions (under different circumstances, for example) and across multiple participants. 

In order for the timing of task stimuli to be synchronized and recorded alongside your Flow data during a session, tasks must be created using a specific framework (and run on the Kernel Flow PC or another PC on the same local network). You can create your own tasks using the Kernel tasks SDK, or you can use one of the common tasks included on your preconfigured Kernel Flow PC:

Image: task bar of Kernel Flow PC with Kernel Tasks icons identified.

As seen in the image above, these tasks are all pre-loaded as icons in the Taskbar of the Kernel Flow PC.  The tasks are described below:

The provided tasks are designed to be used by configuring the Kernel Flow PC to have a participant-facing monitor in addition to the main monitor used for running the Kernel Flow Desktop Application. To learn more, see The Kernel Flow PC.

General Physiology tasks:

  • Breath hold: Participant breathes in sync with stimuli presented onscreen. We expect to see changes in oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin that are similar across the entire head, and synched to the breathing and breath holding. Learn more about Breath Hold.

Sensory tasks:

  • Finger tapping: Participant taps their thumbs to their fingertips as prompted by onscreen stimuli. We expect to see activation in the motor cortex. Here's a study using a similar task. 
  • Retinotopy: A dynamic pattern appears onscreen. Participant responds when the center crosshair changes color. We expect to see activation in the visual cortex. Learn more about retinotopy. Here's a study using a similar task. 
  • Story: An audio clip of someone speaking is played. We expect to see activation in the auditory and language regions. Here are some studies using a similar task.

Cognitive tasks:

  • Go/No Go: A pattern of images appear onscreen sequentially. Participant responds only when certain of the images appear. This task targets inhibitory control systems. We expect to see prefrontal activation. Learn more about Go/No-Go. Here's a study using a similar task. 
  • n-Back: A pattern of symbols appears onscreen. Participant responds if the current symbol matches one that appeared a preset number of symbols prior. This task is adaptive—It gets more difficult (the number of symbols increases) if participant answers correctly, or easier (fewer symbols) if participant doesn't reach an accuracy threshold.This task targets working memory systems. We expect to see prefrontal activation. Learn more about n-Back. Here's a study using a similar task.
  • Stroop: The name of a color appears onscreen displayed in a contrasting font color. Participant must respond by identifying the color described rather than the color shown. This task targets attention systems. We expect to see prefrontal activation. Learn more about stroop. Here are some studies using a similar task.
  • Wisconsin Card Sorting: A series of symboled card sets is displayed. Participant must identify the pattern connecting a highlighted pair of cards within each set (color, quantity, symbol, etc.). This task uses executive functions. We expect to see prefrontal activation. Learn more about Wisconsin Card Sorting. Here are some studies using a similar task. 

Flexible task (for development)

  • Sandbox: This task records participant keyboard input during the set task duration. Typically used alongside another, externally sourced stimulus.

To run a task from the Kernel Flow PC:

  1. In the Taskbar, double-click the icon for the task you want to run.
    The Task Parameters Window appears.
  2. Optionally modify the parameters, then click OK.
    The Task Controls window appears.
    Image; Task Controls window with icons identified.
  •  Click the Instructions icon to view instructions for the task. 
  •  Click the Practice icon to start a sample run-through of the task. (Not all tasks contain a Practice mode)
  •  Click the Run Task icon to begin the formal task.
  •  Click the Quit Task icon to exit the Task screen. 
Image: Lightbulb icon.
During the running of a task you can press Control-c to return to the Task Controls screen.
Image: Lightbulb icon.
While running the task, be sure to move the pointer away from any onscreen stimuli.

Also, be careful not to click outside the task window while a task is running or keyboard inputs won't  be logged. 

You can also run tasks from a separate, external device, connected to the Kernel Flow PC via the Sync Accessory Box. To learn more see Using the Sync Accessory Box.

Image: Lightbulb icon.
Be sure to add a Task name associated with your task in the Data Acquisition section of the Kernel Flow Desktop Application, to ensure the metadata in your dataset includes an identification of the task performed by the participant during the session. To learn more, see Adding Task names.