Towards Real-Time Whisker Tracking in Rodents for Studying Sensorimotor Disorders

Yang Ma, Prajith Ramakrishnan Geethakumari, Georgios Smaragdos, Sander Lindeman, Vincenzo Romano, Mario Negrello, Ioannis Sourdis, Lauerens W.J. Bosman, Chris I. De Zeeuw, Zaid Al-Ars, Christos Strydis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The rodent whisker system is a prominent experimental subject for the study of sensorimotor integration and active sensing. As a result of improved video-recording technology and progressively better neurophysiological methods, there is now the prospect of precisely analyzing the intact vibrissal sensorimotor
system. The vibrissae and snout analyzer (ViSA), a widely used algorithm based on computer vision and image processing, has been proven successful for tracking and quantifying rodent sensorimotor behavior, but at a great cost in processing time. In order to accelerate this offline algorithm and eventually
employ it for online whisker tracking (less than 1 ms/frame latency), we have explored various optimizations and acceleration platforms, including OpenMP multithreading, NVidia GPUs and Maxeler Dataflow Engines. Our experimental results indicate that the optimal solution for an offline implementation of ViSA is
currently the OpenMP-based CPU execution. By using 16 CPU threads, we achieve more than 4,500x speedup compared to the original Matlab serial version, resulting in an average processing latency of 1.2 ms/frame, which is a solid step towards real-time (and online) tracking. Analysis shows that running the algorithm on a 32-thread-enabled machine can reduce this number to
0.72 ms/frame, thereby enabling real-time performance. This will allow direct interaction with the whisker system during behavioral experiments. In conclusion, our approach shows that a combination of software optimizations and the careful selection of hardware platform yields the best performance increase.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2017 International Conference on Embedded Computer Systems
Subtitle of host publicationArchitectures, Modeling, and Simulation (SAMOS XVII)
EditorsY. Patt, S.K. Nandy
Place of PublicationRed Hook, NY
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5386-3437-0
ISBN (Print)978-1-5386-3438-7
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventSAMOS XVII International Conference on Embedded Computer Systems: Architectures, Modeling, and Simulation - Samos Island, Greece
Duration: 17 Jul 201720 Jul 2017


ConferenceSAMOS XVII International Conference on Embedded Computer Systems
Abbreviated title2017
CitySamos Island


  • Acceleration
  • Head
  • Optimization
  • Matlab
  • Tracking
  • Rodents


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