Epoch Information


At acquisition time, sweep epoch metadata is generated. Epochs are contiguous time ranges in the input signal that feature certain signal shapes, such as e.g. pulse trains. This information is exported with each data acquisition to the lab notebook with the key “Epochs” for each DA channel.


Epoch visualization with level 0 (top, at -10) to 3 (bottom)

Retrieving Epoch Information

MIES labnotebook

The epoch information can be retrieved from the lab notebook with

WAVE/T textualValues  = GetLBTextualValues(device)
WAVE/T epochLBEntries = GetLastSetting(textualValues, sweepNumber, EPOCHS_ENTRY_KEY, DATA_ACQUISITION_MODE)
WAVE/T epochHeadstage = EP_EpochStrToWave(epochLBEntries[headstage])

The epochHeadstage wave has four columns:

  • Column 1: start time

  • Column 2: end time

  • Column 3: epoch description - a semi-colon separated list of epoch descriptors. e.g., Epoch=1;Type=Pulse Train;Amplitude=1;Pulse=0;

  • Column 4: (tree) level. e.g., wavebuilder defined EPOCH tree level = 1, a sub epoch of a wavebuilder defined EPOCH = 2 and so on

Each row is an epoch entry.


Epoch information is also exported into NWBv2 files into /intervals/epochs when doing full exports (it is skipped for per-sweep export). Using pynwb.epoch.TimeIntervals <https://pynwb.readthedocs.io/en/stable/pynwb.epoch.html#pynwb.epoch.TimeIntervals> this can be read with:

with NWBHDF5IO('file.nwb', mode='r', load_namespaces=True) as io:
    nwbfile = io.read()

    if nwbfile.epochs and len(nwbfile.epochs) > 0:
        print(nwbfile.epochs[:, 'start_time'])
        print(nwbfile.epochs[:, 'stop_time'])
        print(nwbfile.epochs[:, 'tags'])
        print(nwbfile.epochs[:, 'treelevel'])
        print(nwbfile.epochs[:, 'timeseries'])


The times are in seconds where 0 is the beginning of the signal input. The reference signal is the DA input wave. The epochChannel wave can contain several entries with different levels covering the same time range. Epochs with a level of zero name the main components of the input signal. Typical epochs with zero level are ‘Inserted Test Pulse’ and ‘StimSet’.

A level of one designates a sub epoch of a zero level epoch and can correspond to, for example, the leading baseline a ‘Inserted Test Pulse’, the pulse component, and the trailing baseline of the pulse. For ‘StimSet’s that are level zero, the associated Stimset-Epochs, like Ramp, Pulse Train, and so on are level one.

Accordingly level two epochs are sub epochs of level one epochs. For example, the level two epoch of a pulse train contains a single pulse of the pulse train.

The start time of a level n epoch equals the start time of the first level n+1 epoch within the level n epochs time interval.

All epochs between 0 and end of the input signal are consecutive and without gaps (contiguous). All level n+1 epochs are contiguous for the associated n epoch.

The following table sketches how epochs of different levels could be distributed in the range of the full output data:

output data time series range 0 - 100 [s]

level 0: 0 - 60

level 0: 60 - 100

level 1: 0 - 20

level 1: 20 - 60

level 2: 20 - 30

level 2: 30 - 45

level 2: 45 - 51

level 2: 51 - 60

The entries in the wave are sorted by increasing start times and secondary by decreasing end times.

Time specialities

The epoch start and end times are stored in seconds with sufficiently large precision as text.

It can not be assumed though that the epoch start and end time points coincide with the sampling pattern of the DA data. As an example an epoch going from 1s to 2s might be referring to DA data which has sampling points acquired at 0.9995s and 1.0015s and not exactly at 1s.

It is the responsibility of the user evaluating the epochs information to select a scientific consistent strategy dealing with that. A good first approach might be to use the closest sampling point.

optimized overlap distributed data acquisistion (oodDAQ) regions

oodDAQ regions are saved as level two epoch named oodDAQRegion. While regular epochs are generated from the stimset note, oodDAQ regions are generated by the oodDAQ optimizer. Thus the oodDAQRegion epochs are not bound to the constraints described in the previous section. The oodDAQ regions are added ‘as is’ to the epochs.


The following table describes the 1:1 relationship between epoch names and MIES feature names:






Short Name





Onset Delay




Onset delay of channel due to distributed DAQ [dDAQ]




Onset delay of channel due to distributed DAQ optimized overlay [dDAQ OptOv]


Type=Inserted Testpulse


Inserted TP


Type=Inserted Testpulse;SubType=Baseline


preceding baseline of inserted TP


Type=Inserted Testpulse;SubType=Pulse;Amplitude=x


pulse time of inserted TP


Type=Inserted Testpulse;SubType=Baseline


subsequent baseline of inserted TP








Stimset-Epoch (Details is optional)




Stimset-Epoch baseline before first pulse (example pulse train)




Stimset-Epoch component (example pulse train)




High region of pulse (example pulse train)




Zero region of pulse (example pulse train)




oodDAQ region




trailing baseline due to different length stimsets




trailing baseline from Distributed DAQ [OptOv]




Termination Delay



UA | Planned to be acquired but skipped due to early sweep stop

If the name entry begins with + then it is appended to the higher-level name. The x is a place holder where additional information is included in the names, such as Stimset-Epoch numbering, or amplitudes. Currently only pulse trains (see below) are supported with level two and three detail for Stimset-Epochs. Depending on the setup of the data acquisition, not every entry listed in the table has to appear in the epochs table.

The Details key for the Stimset-Epoch can contain a combination of Mixed frequency or Poisson distribution with shuffled as originally configured for the Stimset in the waveBuilder.

When the sweep is terminated earlier as planned, the epoch Unacquired is added in the planned but not acquired timespan at the end of the sweep. All other epochs are then also either shortend or dropped so that they don’t extend into the unacquired epoch.

Short Names

In addition to the long names that are generated as described above also unique short names are created. These short names are saved in the epoch description field as well as key value pair. The key is ShortName and the separator =. To retrieve a short name the function EP_GetShortName(string name) should be used.

Short names are created in the form of blocks of one to two uppercase letters followed optionally by a signed integer number. Subsequent blocks are separated by an underscore. Example: E0_PT_P48_B.

Pulse Trains

Pulse Trains are a type of Stimset-Epochs which is widely used and covered in high detail in the epochs table. For pulse trains each pulse gets an level two epoch entry. The time interval of a pulse begins when the signal is above base line level and includes the trailing baseline (that precedes the next pulse) unless it is the last pulse in the pulse train. An epoch named ‘Baseline’ is inserted if the first pulse in the pulse train has a leading baseline. This is applies for flipped Stimsets containing Stimset-Epochs with type pulse train.

User epochs

Adding custom epoch information is supported via EP_AddUserEpoch(). This is especially useful for analysis function writers, who can add their own epochs of interest, see File MIES_AnalysisFunctions.ipf for the supported events.

The tags property of user epochs can be freely set. When a shortName is supplied, this is always prefixed with U_ so that short names for user epochs don’t collide with builtin epochs. Likewise the tree level for user epochs is fixed to -1.

User epochs will also be limited to the acquired sweep data like builtin epochs. This can result in shorter as expected epochs or even removed user epochs.

 string device = "ITC18USB_DEV_0"
 variable startTime = 1.5
 variable endTime   = 2.5
 variable DAC = 1
 string tags = "Name=Found Spikes;"
 string shortName = "FS"

 EP_AddUserEpoch(device, XOP_CHANNEL_TYPE_DAC, DAC, startTime, endTime, tags, shortName = shortName)