Tutorial 28: Scripting

Authors: Francois Tadel, Elizabeth Bock, Matthias Sure, Sylvain Baillet

The previous tutorials explained how to use Brainstorm in an interactive way to process one subject with two acquisition runs. In the context of a typical neuroimaging study, you may have tens or hundreds of subjects to process in the same way, it is unrealistic to do everything manually. Some parts of the analysis can be processed in batches with no direct supervision, others require more attention. This tutorial introduces tools and tricks that will help you assemble an efficient analysis pipeline.

Starting a new script

The easiest way to get started with a new Brainstorm script is to use the script generator, already introduced in the tutorial Select files and run processes. Select some files in the Process1 or Process2 tabs, select a list of processes, and use the menu Generate .m script. The example below should work with the protocol "TutorialIntroduction" created during the introduction tutorials.

Line by line: Header

% Script generated by Brainstorm (19-Jul-2016)

All the lines starting with a "%" are comments, they are never executed.

% Input files
sFiles = [];
SubjectNames = {...

These lines define the script inputs:

% Start a new report
bst_report('Start', sFiles);

Starts a new report of activity: Clears all the previous logs and gets ready to record new messages. The report will collect all the messages that are generated during the execution of the script by the various processes. You can explicitly add screen captures and additional messages to the current report with the function bst_report. This report will remain open until the function bst_report('Start') is called again. To display the current report, use the menu File > Report viewer.

The syntax function_name('SubFunction', arguments) is used a lot in Brainstorm: it calls a subfunction available inside a .m file. This line above calls the function Start() in the file brainstorm3/toolbox/process/bst_report.m. This is made possible with the use of the short script "macro_method". Many of the Brainstorm .m files are actually libraries of functions, rather than simple "scripts" or "functions".

Line by line: Body

% Process: Select data files in: Subject01/*/Avg: deviant
sFiles = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_files_data', sFiles, [], ...
    'subjectname',   SubjectNames{1}, ...
    'condition',     '', ...
    'tag',           'Avg: deviant', ...
    'includebad',    0, ...
    'includeintra',  0, ...
    'includecommon', 0);

% Process: Low-pass:30Hz
sFiles = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_bandpass', sFiles, [], ...
    'sensortypes', 'MEG', ...
    'highpass',    0, ...
    'lowpass',     30, ...
    'attenuation', 'strict', ...  % 60dB
    'mirror',      0, ...
    'useold',      0, ...
    'overwrite',   0);

% Process: Snapshot: Recordings time series
sFiles = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_snapshot', sFiles, [], ...
    'target',         5, ...  % Recordings time series
    'modality',       1, ...  % MEG (All)
    'orient',         4, ...  % bottom
    'time',           0.11, ...
    'contact_time',   [0, 0.1], ...
    'contact_nimage', 12, ...
    'threshold',      20, ...
    'Comment',        'Run');

You will find one block per process you selected in the pipeline editor. They all have the same syntax:
output_files = bst_process('CallProcess', process_name, input_files_A, input_files_B, options_list);

% Save and display report
ReportFile = bst_report('Save', sFiles);

Closes the current report and saves it in the user report folder ($HOME/.brainstorm/reports). These reports are in .mat format and contain all the information necessary to re-run the execution exactly in the same way, but they are not easy to read.

The parameter "sFiles" is optional, it indicates what are the files that are considered as the final results of the script. You can remove it without breaking your script: ReportFile = bst_report('Save');

bst_report('Open', ReportFile);

Opens the report viewer to display what happened during the execution. This is equivalent to using the menu File > Report viewer. You can comment this line (ie. add a "%" at the beginning of the line) if you don't want to show the report at the end of the execution.

% bst_report('Export', ReportFile, ExportDir);

This function exports the report in readable format, as an HTML file that includes all the screen captures embedded in it. It is disabled by default. If you want to use this feature: remove the "%" at the beginning of the line, and define the variable ExportDir.

ExportDir must be a string that defines where to save the HTML report. It can be either the absolute path to a HTML file (eg. 'C:\Users\myuser\Documents\report_example.html') or just a folder (eg. 'C:\Users\myuser\Documents'). If you enter only a path to a folder, a default file name including the protocol name and a date tag is generated (report_ProtocolName_YYMMDD_HHMMSS.html).

Simplify the calls

The script you generated is like any Matlab script: you can edit it, rename the variables, add tests and loops, etc. The first important thing to understand is how to edit the options and change the inputs/outputs. The script generator uses only one variable for all the file lists (sFiles) and the output process is always the input of the following process. This is usually too restrictive to write a full analysis script: we commonly need to have multiple lists of files or to run two different operations on the same file.

Let's consider the first process call, which selects the averages for the Deviant condition in both runs.

sFiles = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_files_data', sFiles, [], ...
    'subjectname',   SubjectNames{1}, ...
    'condition',     '', ...
    'tag',           'Avg: deviant', ...
    'includebad',    0, ...
    'includeintra',  0, ...
    'includecommon', 0);

There is no need to set the parameter sFiles, because there is no input, you can replace it with an empty matrix []. You can therefore remove the line "sFiles = [];". We can also rename the output variable "sAvgData", to be more specific.

sAvgData = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_files_data', [], [], ...

You can omit all the options that are not defined, not used, or kept to their default values:

sAvgData = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_files_data', [], [], ...
    'subjectname',   SubjectNames{1}, ...
    'tag',           'Avg: deviant');

Edit the call to the low-pass filter: Change the input to sAvgData and the output to sAvgDataLow, this way you will be able to keep track of the two files if you need to use them independently later.

sAvgDataLow = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_bandpass', sAvgData, [], ...
    'sensortypes', 'MEG', ...
    'highpass',    0, ...
    'lowpass',     30, ...
    'attenuation', 'strict');   % 60dB

Edit the call to the snapshot process: Change the input to sAvgDataLow, and remove the output parameter (we are not expecting any output file from it).

bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_snapshot', sAvgDataLow, [], ...
    'target',   5, ...  % Recordings time series
    'modality', 1);     % MEG (All)

Replace the last lines with the following code, in order to export the report instead of opening in the report viewer (edit the file path to point at your own user folder instead).

ReportFile = bst_report('Save');
bst_report('Export', ReportFile, 'C:\Users\myuser\Documents\report_test.html');

Evaluate in Matlab

Select the code for the first process in the Matlab editor, right-click > Evaluate selection (or press F9).


If you haven't executed your script yet, you will get the following error in the Matlab command window:

Undefined variable "SubjectNames" or class "SubjectNames".

The variable SubjectNames is not defined yet: Execute the first lines "SubjectNames = {'Subject01'}", then try again. You should now have a new variable in your Matlab workspace, which points at the two average files. Type "sAvgData(1)" in your command window to display the first element:

>> sAvgData(1)
ans =
          iStudy: 6
           iItem: 1
        FileName: '..._01_600Hz_notch/data_deviant_average_160513_1329.mat'
        FileType: 'data'
         Comment: 'Avg: deviant (39 files)'
       Condition: 'S01_AEF_20131218_01_600Hz_notch'
     SubjectFile: 'Subject01/brainstormsubject.mat'
     SubjectName: 'Subject01'
        DataFile: ''
     ChannelFile: 'Subject01/S01_AEF_20131218_01_600Hz_notch/channel_ctf_acc1.mat'
    ChannelTypes: {'ADC A'  'ADC V'  'DAC'  'ECG'  'EOG'  'MEG'  'MEG REF' ...}

The field "sAvgData(1).FileName" contains the relative path to the to the Deviant average in the first run. This structure sAvgData contains also a lot of information that can be helpful in your script:

Naming conventions

To help you navigate in the Brainstorm code, here are some naming conventions:

Running the script

The simplified script looks like this:

% Input files
SubjectNames = {'Subject01'};
% Start a new report

% Process: Select data files in: Subject01/*/Avg: deviant
sAvgData = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_files_data', [], [], ...
    'subjectname',   SubjectNames{1}, ...
    'tag',           'Avg: deviant');
% Process: Low-pass:30Hz
sAvgDataLow = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_bandpass', sAvgData, [], ...
    'sensortypes', 'MEG', ...
    'highpass',    0, ...
    'lowpass',     30, ...
    'attenuation', 'strict');  % 60dB
% Process: Snapshot: Recordings time series
bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_snapshot', sAvgDataLow, [], ...
    'target',   5, ...  % Recordings time series
    'modality', 1);     % MEG (All)

% Save and display report
ReportFile = bst_report('Save');
bst_report('Export', ReportFile, 'C:\Users\franc\Documents\report_test.html');

You have three ways to execute it:

At the end of the execution, nothing happens, because we indicated we wanted to export the report instead of opening it. To check out the report of execution: use the menu File > Report viewer from the Brainstorm window, or open the file report_test.html that was saved somewhere on your computer.

In this page, you can review everything that happened in the script: when it was executed, how long it took, what are the processes that were executed, some additional messages (two files were selected with the first process) and the screen captures taken by process_snapshot.

Running the script again

If you execute the script again, it will not behave as expected anymore. The selection process we used assumes that there is only one file per folder with a name that includes "Avg: deviant". This is not the case anymore after the execution, because the low-pass filtered files also contain the same string. The execution of the first process of the script now returns 4 files.

>> sAvgData = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_files_data', [], [], ...
    'subjectname',   SubjectNames{1}, ...
    'tag',           'Avg: deviant')

sAvgData =
1x4 struct array with fields:

In order to exclude the low-pass filtered files from this selection, you can add another process that will refine the selection. Use the script generator again to create a template call for another process, then copy-paste it in your script.

Now the file selection part of your script should look like this, and should return only two files:

% Process: Select data files in: Subject01/*/Avg: Deviant
sAvgData = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_files_data', [], [], ...
    'subjectname',   SubjectNames{1}, ...
    'tag',           'Avg: deviant');
% Process: Ignore file names with tag: low
sAvgData = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_tag', sAvgData, [], ...
    'tag',    'low', ...
    'search', 2, ...  % Search the file names
    'select', 2);  % Ignore the files with the tag

With this last modification, your script is more robust. It can be executed multiple times without completely changing its behavior. When you are fetching files from the database using tags or file names, always pay attention to this aspect: the database grows and the further you go, the more specific your requests have to be.

A good practice can be to tag explicitly the output files your script generates if you need to fetch them later. You can use the process File > Add tag and File > Set name.

Starting Brainstorm

Brainstorm must be running in the background for these scripts to run properly. The interface doesn't have to be visible on the screen, but the database engine must be running for processing requests. At the beginning of your script, you can explicitly start or restart Brainstorm.

If you want to start Brainstorm only if it is not already running, you can use the following code:

if ~brainstorm('status')
    brainstorm nogui

To select a specific protocol at the beginning of your script:

ProtocolName = 'TutorialIntroduction';
% Get the protocol index
iProtocol = bst_get('Protocol', ProtocolName);
if isempty(iProtocol)
    error(['Unknown protocol: ' ProtocolName]);
% Select the current procotol
gui_brainstorm('SetCurrentProtocol', iProtocol);

To delete the protocol and start over:

% Delete existing protocol
gui_brainstorm('DeleteProtocol', ProtocolName);
% Create new protocol
gui_brainstorm('CreateProtocol', ProtocolName, 0, 0);

Additional command line options:

brainstorm stop      % Quit Brainstorm
brainstorm update    % Download and install latest Brainstorm update (see bst_update)
brainstorm reset     % Re-initialize Brainstorm database and preferences
brainstorm digitize  % Digitize electrodes positions and head shape using a Polhemus
brainstorm setpath   % Add Brainstorm subdirectories to current path
brainstorm info      % Open Brainstorm website
brainstorm forum     % Open Brainstorm forum
brainstorm license   % Display license

Database requests

The functions bst_get and bst_set allow you to query the database, access the configuration of the software and modify some display parameters. The complete reference documentation of these functions is included directly in their code (brainstorm3/toolbox/core/bst_get.m and bst_set.m).

Let's start with a few simple examples:

>> ProtocolInfo = bst_get('ProtocolInfo')  % Configuration of the current protocol
ProtocolInfo =
              Comment: 'TutorialIntroduction'
              STUDIES: 'C:\Work\Protocols\TutorialIntroduction\data'
             SUBJECTS: 'C:\Work\Protocols\TutorialIntroduction\anat'
               iStudy: 6
       UseDefaultAnat: 0
    UseDefaultChannel: 0

>> isGUI = bst_get('isGUI')   % Is the Brainstorm interface displayed (0=no, 1=yes)

>> bst_set('FlipYAxis', 1)                 % New figures will have the Y axis flipped
>> bst_set('TSDisplayMode', 'butterfly')   % New figures will use a "butterfly" view
>> bst_set('FieldTripDir', FieldTripDir)   % Set path to the FieldTrip toolbox

To reference the files in the database, each protocol is subdivided in Subjects (the "anat" folder, containing the MRI, surfaces and atlases) and Studies (the "data" folder, including the recordings, channel files and all the analyses). Each Study corresponds to a sub-folder (eg. protocol/data/subject01/run01/), and is attached to only one subject.

Subjects and Studies are referenced in the protocol with a unique index, most of the time kept in variables named iSubject and iStudy. The files available in them are also referenced with indices, with variables such as iAnatomy, iSurface, iData, iHeadModel, iResults or iTimefreq. You can see the indices in the database explorer by hovering your mouse over the nodes files and folders:


Example: Getting the study structure from the variable sAvgData, defined in the script:

>> sAvgData(1)
ans =
          iStudy: 6
           iItem: 1

>> sStudy = bst_get('Study', sAvgData(1).iStudy)   % Get study struct with its index
sStudy =
                 Name: 'S01_AEF_20131218_01_600Hz_notch'
             FileName: 'Subject01/S01_AEF_20131218_01_600Hz_notch/brainstormstudy.mat'
          DateOfStudy: '13-May-2016'
    BrainStormSubject: 'Subject01/brainstormsubject.mat'   % Subject filename
            Condition: {'S01_AEF_20131218_01_600Hz_notch'} % Name of the folder
              Channel: [1x1 struct]       % Channel file
             iChannel: []                 % Not used anymore
                 Data: [1x242 struct]     % List of "data" files in the folder
            HeadModel: [1x1 struct]       % List of head models in the folder
           iHeadModel: 1                  % Default head model (file in green)
               Result: [1x244 struct]     % List of source files and links
                 Stat: [1x0 struct]       % List of statistical results
                Image: [0x0 struct]       % List of images
             NoiseCov: [1x2 struct]       % Noise(1) and data(2) covariance files
              Dipoles: [0x0 struct]       % List of dipole files in the folder
             Timefreq: [1x247 struct]     % List of time-frequency files
               Matrix: [0x0 struct]       % List of "matrix" files in the folder

Example: Getting the data structure.

% Get the structure representing the file from sStudy
>> sData = sStudy.Data(sAvgData(1).iItem)
sData =
    FileName: '..._01_600Hz_notch/data_deviant_average_160513_1329.mat'
     Comment: 'Avg: deviant (39 files)'    % File name
    DataType: 'recordings'                 % Type of data in the file
    BadTrial: 0                            % If 1, the trial is marked as bad

Example: Getting the subject structure.

% Get subject structure from filename (lists the files in the subject folder)
>> sSubject = bst_get('Subject', sStudy.BrainStormSubject)
sSubject =
                 Name: 'Subject01'    % Subject name, same as folder name
             Comments: ''             % Not used much
             FileName: 'Subject01/brainstormsubject.mat'
    DateOfAcquisition: ''             % Not used anymore
              Anatomy: [1x1 struct]   % List of MRI volumes
              Surface: [1x9 struct]   % List of surfaces
             iAnatomy: 1              % Index of default MRI
               iScalp: 9              % Index of default head surface
              iCortex: 4              % Index of default cortex surface
          iInnerSkull: []             % Index of default inner skull surface
          iOuterSkull: []             % Index of default outer skull surface
               iOther: []             % Not used anymore
       UseDefaultAnat: 0        % If 1: Use the default anatomy
    UseDefaultChannel: 0        % 0=one/folder, 1=one/subject, 2=one global

Example: Getting the study structure and data index from a file name.

>> DataFile = sAvgData(1).FileName
DataFile =

>> [sStudy, iStudy, iData] = bst_get('DataFile', DataFile)
sStudy =
                 Name: 'S01_AEF_20131218_01_600Hz_notch'
             FileName: '..._01_600Hz_notch/brainstormstudy.mat'
          DateOfStudy: '13-May-2016'
    BrainStormSubject: 'Subject01/brainstormsubject.mat'
            Condition: {'S01_AEF_20131218_01_600Hz_notch'}
              Channel: [1x1 struct]
             iChannel: []
                 Data: [1x242 struct]
            HeadModel: [1x1 struct]
           iHeadModel: 1
               Result: [1x244 struct]
                 Stat: [1x0 struct]
                Image: [0x0 struct]
             NoiseCov: [1x2 struct]
              Dipoles: [0x0 struct]
             Timefreq: [1x247 struct]
               Matrix: [0x0 struct]
iStudy =
iData =

Many other options are available for searching files in the database with bst_get. We cannot list them all in this page, but you can refer to the code of bst_get.m for more information.

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To change parameters or database structures: bst_set.m.

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File structures

The structures of the different types of files were described in the sections "On the hard drive" of the introduction tutorials. Here is a summary of all these sections:

Custom processing

In many situations, you will find useful to read the files available in the database, and maybe modify them. The easiest approaches do not require any scripting, we will start by reviewing them quickly.

Process: Run Matlab command

If you want to modify the values saved in a file (eg. the field "F" from a "data" file), the easiest way is probably to use the process1 File > Run Matlab command. It is also available from Process2 in the category "Other".

It loads the files in input and run them through a piece of Matlab code that you can edit freely. It can extend a lot the flexibility of the Brainstorm pipeline manager, providing an easy access to any Matlab function or script.

The corresponding script looks like this:

sFiles = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_matlab_eval', sFiles, [], ...
    'matlab',      'Data = Data.^2;', ...
    'sensortypes', 'MEG', ...
    'overwrite',   0);

Export/Import with the database explorer

Right-click on the Deviant average in the database explorer > File > Export to Matlab > "DataMat".

Data exported as "DataMat"
>> DataMat
DataMat =
     ChannelFlag: [340x1 double]
    ColormapType: []
         Comment: 'Avg: deviant (39 files)'
        DataType: 'recordings'
          Device: 'CTF'
    DisplayUnits: []
               F: [340x361 double]
         History: {45x3 cell}
             Std: []
            Time: [1x361 double]
            nAvg: 39
          Events: [1x1 struct]

DataMat is the exact content of the corresponding .mat file, as loaded with Matlab's load() function. Edit some of the fields of this structure from the Matlab command window:

>> DataMat.Comment = 'Test square';
>> DataMat.F = DataMat.F .^ 2;

Now right-click on the folder containing the original file > File > Import from Matlab > DataMat:


If instead, you right-click on the original file and select the menu File > Import from Matlab, it overwrites the selected file instead of creating a new one with the selected structure.

Reference: File manipulation

Useful functions for manipulating file names and paths (read the code of the functions for help):

Reading files from a script (all the functions take relative paths in input):

Saving files:

Registering new files in the database:

Reload folders (if you saved or deleted files without registering correctly the modification in the database):

Other useful database functions:

Export a file from the database to other file formats (read the comments in the functions for help):

Convert Brainstorm structures to FieldTrip structures:

Reference: Display functions

Create new visualization figures:

Configure time-series figures:

Configure 3D figures:

Configure time-frequency figures:

Configure colormaps:

Configure statistical thresholding:

Export the contents of a figure to a file:

Example: Creating a new file

This section illustrates how to add new files to the database. We will create a sinusoidal signal and save it in a "matrix" file, in a new folder of the subject "Test".

% Time: 1 second with a sampling frequency of 1000Hz
t = 0:0.001:1;
% Generate two sinsuoidal signals (20Hz,30Hz)
F = [sin(20*2*pi*t); 0.5*sin(30*2*pi*t)];

% Initialize an empty "matrix" structure
sMat = db_template('matrixmat');
% Fill the required fields of the structure
sMat.Value       = F;
sMat.Comment     = 'Test sinusoids';
sMat.Description = {'Signal #1: 20Hz'; 'Signal #2: 30Hz'};
sMat.Time        = t;

% Create a new folder "Script" in subject "Test"
iStudy = db_add_condition('Test', 'Script');
% Get the corresponding study structure
sStudy = bst_get('Study', iStudy);

There are many options to add a new file to the database, with various levels of requirements. You can call the db_add function (reloads the destination folder, therefore slow if you save many files), save the file in the corresponding folder and reload the protocol (slow as well), or register the file in the database manually (more complicated but faster).

Option #1: db_add

OutputFile = db_add(iStudy, sMat);

Option #2: bst_save / db_reload_studies

% Get the full path to the new folder
% (same folder as the brainstormstudy.mat file for this study)
OutputFolder = bst_fileparts(file_fullpath(sStudy.FileName));
% Get a new unique filename (including a timestamp)
MatrixFile = bst_process('GetNewFilename', OutputFolder, 'matrix_test');
% Save file
bst_save(MatrixFile, sMat, 'v6');
% Reload the folder in which the new file was saved

Option #3: bst_save / db_add_data

% Another way to generate a unique filename (without a timestamp)
MatrixFile = file_unique(bst_fullfile(OutputFolder, 'matrix_test.mat'));
% Save file
bst_save(MatrixFile, sMat, 'v6');
% Reference saved file in the database
db_add_data(iStudy, MatrixFile, sMat);
% Update the database explorer display
panel_protocols('UpdateNode', 'Study', iStudy);

Example: Editing events

A step that commonly requires manual changes is the definition of the event markers. For example, we have to combine external triggers or behavioral information with the existing events. This example illustrates how to load the events, modify them and save them back.

For the continuous recordings, the events are saved in the .mat file corresponding to the "Link to raw file". These structures contain only meta-data and information created with Brainstorm, the EEG/MEG recordings are available in a separate binary file. First, we need to load this link.

% Right-click on a "Link to raw file" in the database explorer
%  > File > Copy file path to clipboard
RawFile = '/.../@rawS01.../data_0raw_S01_..._01_600Hz_notch.mat'

% Load the "sFile" structure, contained in the .F structure
% of the link file (data_0raw...mat)
sRaw = in_bst_data(RawFile, 'F');

>> sRaw.F.events
ans =
1x7 struct array with fields:

For example, let's say we want to add 30ms to all the events in the category "button" in order to compensate for some hardware delay, and create a new event category with the modified timing. We need first to identify what is the index of the category "button", in this array of 7 event structures.

% Find the index of the event category "button"
iEvtButton = find(strcmpi({sRaw.F.events.label}, 'button'));

>> iEvtButton
iEvtButton =

In the code above, note this special Matlab syntax that allows the concatenation of the values of one field across multiple structures, in an array of structures:

>> {sRaw.F.events.label}
ans =
    'standard'    'deviant'    'button'    'cardiac'
    'blink'    'bad_1-7Hz'    'bad_40-240Hz'

If you want to search instead all the events containing a specific tag, for example "bad", you can use the cellfun function (applies the same function sequentially to all the elements in a cell array and concatenates the results) in combination with the strfind function (search for a substring). The final call to the find function returns at which indices the list of tags found in the event label is not empty.

>> iEvtBad = find( ~cellfun( @(c)isempty(strfind(c,'bad')), ...
iEvtBad =
     6     7

The code below copies the existing event category "button", renames it and add a 30ms offset. If you add or remove events, you must adjust the size of the other fields: epochs (always 1 for most file formats), channels and notes (cell array of empty matrices in most cases).

% Copy the event category "button" to a new category
iEvtNew = length(sRaw.F.events) + 1;
sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew) = sRaw.F.events(iEvtButton);
% Rename the new event to "button_offset"
sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).label = 'button_offset';

% How many samples in 30ms (0.030s * 600Hz = 18 samples)
offsetSample = round(0.030 .* sRaw.F.prop.sfreq);
% Apply offset to the events in the "button_offset" category
sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).times = sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).times + 0.03
% Round new time values to the nearest sample
sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).times = ...
    round(sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).times .* sRaw.F.prop.sfreq) ./ sRaw.F.prop.sfreq;
% Re-generate an epochs field with only ones, and empty notes and channels fields
% (optional here, as we didn't change the number of evt)
nTimes = size(sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).times, 2);
sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).epochs = ones(1, nTimes);
sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).channels = cell(1, nTimes);
sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).notes = cell(1, nTimes);
% Change the event color to yellow (red=1, green=1, blue=0)
sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew).color = [1 1 0];

>> sRaw.F.events(iEvtNew)
ans =
         label: 'button_offset'
         color: [1 1 0]
        epochs: [1x40 double]
         times: [1x40 double]
    reactTimes: []
        select: 1
      channels: {1x40 cell}
         notes: {1x40 cell}

The last step is to save the modifications back to the "Link to raw file". Here the call to file_fullpath is optional because the variable RawFile already contains the absolute path to the file.

% Update the sRaw structure to the RawFile file (the last parameter appends to the existing struct)
bst_save(file_fullpath(RawFile), sRaw, 'v6', 1);

Open the recordings to make sure your transformation worked the way you expected.

Find examples in the code

The easier way to understand how to use a function is to search the code with the "Find files" interface in Matlab. Go to the brainstorm3 folder, click on "Find files" (or Ctrl+Shift+F), enter the name of a function in "Find files containing text", Include subfolders, Match case. It will return all the lines that include the string you entered across all the files in the Brainstorm distribution. Just double-click on a line to jump to the code in the Matlab editor.


You can use the same interface to find what function is called when you click on a button or menu in the interface. Search for the label or the tooltip of the interface element in the same way. The example below shows how to track what happens when you click on the headmodel popup menu "Check spheres".


If you have trouble understanding how to set some input parameters, you can use the debugger to explore a real use case. Place a breakpoint at the begging of your function of interest (watch this tutorial if you don't know how to do this), for example in view_timeseries.m. Then click on the corresponding menus in the Brainstorm interface (eg. double-click on a data file). When the execution reaches the line you selected, it stops and gives you back the commands. You can explore the values in all the variables, modify them, and execute the code step by step (many options available in the Editor tab of Matlab).


Additional quality control

You can add in the reports all the information that may help you control the quality of the analysis, or figures you want to include in publications or clinical reports. The process "File > Save snapshot" lets you save some predefined views, but you can also custom screen captures. The example below shows how to add a "raster plot" for all the deviant trials from Run#01 in the report.

% Get all the deviant trials in Run#01  (the list includes the deviant average)
sDeviant = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_select_files_data', [], [], ...
    'subjectname',   'Subject01', ...
    'condition',     'S01_AEF_20131218_01_600Hz_notch', ...
    'tag',           'deviant');

% Open raster plot
hFig = view_erpimage({sDeviant.FileName}, 'erpimage', 'MEG');
% Select the channel MRT34
sOptions = panel_display('GetDisplayOptions');
sOptions.RowName = 'MRT34';
panel_display('SetDisplayOptions', sOptions);

% Screen capture of this figure
% bst_report('Snapshot', hFig, FileName, Comment, WindowPosition);
bst_report('Snapshot', hFig, [], 'ERP image: MRT34', [300 100 600 400]);
% Close figure

You can also add messages in the reports (information, warning or errors).

% Function call: bst_report(MsgType, sProcess, sInputs, Message)
bst_report('Info',    [], sDeviant, 'This is an information message.');
bst_report('Warning', [], sDeviant, 'This is a warning.');
bst_report('Error',   [], sDeviant, 'This is an error.');

% Open the report viewer to show the current report (not saved yet)
bst_report('Open', 'Current');

Report generated with the code above:

Loop over subjects

Creating loops is not supported yet by the script generator, but relatively easy to do from a script without knowing too much about Matlab programming. The example below shows how to create a loop over subjects to import their anatomy. The dataset used here is from the tutorial MEG visual: single subject.

With the Process1 box empty, select the process "Import > Import anatomy > Import anatomy folder" and generate a script. Simplify if using the guidelines presented in the previous sections:

% Input files
SubjectNames = {'sub001'};
RawFiles = {...

% Process: Import anatomy folder
bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_import_anatomy', [], [], ...
    'subjectname', SubjectNames{1}, ...
    'mrifile',     {RawFiles{1}, 'FreeSurfer'}, ...
    'nvertices',   15000);

Add the other subject names and corresponding FreeSurfer folders in the script header:

SubjectNames = {'sub001', 'sub002', 'sub003', 'sub004'};
RawFiles = {...
    '/.../Tutorials/sample_group/freesurfer/sub001', ...
    '/.../Tutorials/sample_group/freesurfer/sub002', ...
    '/.../Tutorials/sample_group/freesurfer/sub003', ...

Add a for loop around all the steps to repeat on each subject ("for" before, and "end" after the code), and replace the indices "1" with the loop variable:

% Loop on subjects
for iSubject = 1:length(SubjectNames)
    % Process: Import anatomy folder
    bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_import_anatomy', [], [], ...
        'subjectname', SubjectNames{iSubject}, ...
        'mrifile',     {RawFiles{iSubject}, 'FreeSurfer'}, ...
        'nvertices',   15000);

Loop over acquisition runs

If you have multiple subjects for which the anatomy is already imported, and multiple runs to process for each subject, you can add two nested for loops to link all the runs to the database in the same script. The dataset used here is from the tutorial MEG visual: single subject.

With the Process1 box empty, select the process "Import > Import recordings > Create link to raw file" and generate a script. Simplify if using the guidelines presented in the previous sections:

% Input files
SubjectNames = {'sub001'};
RawFiles = {...

% Process: Create link to raw file
sFileRaw = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_import_data_raw', [], [], ...
    'subjectname',    SubjectNames{1}, ...
    'datafile',       {RawFiles{1}, 'FIF'}, ...
    'channelreplace', 0, ...
    'channelalign',   0, ...
    'evtmode',        'value');

Add the other subject names and all the runs for all the subjects (array of cell arrays) in the script header:

SubjectNames = {'sub001', 'sub002'};
RawFiles = {...
    {'/.../sample_group/ds117/sub001/MEG/run_01_sss.fif', ...
     '/.../sample_group/ds117/sub001/MEG/run_02_sss.fif', ...
     '/.../sample_group/ds117/sub001/MEG/run_03_sss.fif'}, ...
    {'/.../sample_group/ds117/sub002/MEG/run_01_sss.fif', ...
     '/.../sample_group/ds117/sub002/MEG/run_02_sss.fif', ...

Add two for loops around the code to repeat on all the runs:

% Loop on subjects
for iSubject = 1:length(SubjectNames)
  % Loop on runs for each subject
  for iRun = 1:length(RawFiles{iSubject})
    % Process: Create link to raw file
    sFileRaw = bst_process('CallProcess', 'process_import_data_raw', [], [], ...
        'subjectname',    SubjectNames{iSubject}, ...
        'datafile',       {RawFiles{iSubjects}{iRun}, 'FIF'}, ...
        'channelreplace', 0, ...
        'channelalign',   0, ...
        'evtmode',        'value');

How to process an entire study

This section proposes a standard workflow for processing a full group study with Brainstorm. It contains the same steps of analysis as the introduction tutorials, but separating what can be done automatically from what should be done manually. This workflow can be adapted to most ERP studies (stimulus-based).

Final scripts

The following script from the Brainstorm distribution reproduces the introduction tutorials ("Get started"): brainstorm3/toolbox/script/tutorial_introduction.m - Report: report_TutorialIntroduction.html

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For an example of a script illustrating how to create loops, look at the tutorial MEG visual: single subject. brainstorm3/toolbox/script/tutorial_visual_single.m - Report: report_TutorialVisual_sub001.html

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Running scripts on a cluster

Like mentioned above Brainstorm can be started in different ways. To use Brainstorm on a distant server the starting command "brainstorm server" needs to be used.

Before using Brainstorm on a distant server a few adjustments need to be done.

At first Matlab (including the Signal Processing Toolbox --- depending on the used functions) needs to be installed on the server and a Brainstorm version needs to be located on the server. For the Brainstorm database, the folder "brainstorm_db" needs to be created. Regarding the file structure on the server, the path for the brainstorm folders could look like this:




In the "brainstorm_db" folder all the files you want to process need to be included. To not miss any files, the easiest solution would be to upload the whole "brainstorm_db" folder from your computer to the server. On the local computer Brainstorm might create missing files, e.g. "protocol.m", on its own. On the server it might not be able to do so and will crash.

To run a script using Brainstorm on a distant server also the script needs to be prepared. The following lines should be included:

% Set up the Brainstorm files
pathStr = '/home/user/brainstorm3/';
BrainstormDbDir = '/home/user/brainstorm_db';
% Start Brainstorm
if ~brainstorm('status')
    brainstorm server
% Select the correct protocol
ProtocolName = 'Study'; % Enter the name of your protocol
sProtocol.Comment = ProtocolName;
sProtocol.SUBJECTS = [home 'anat'];
sProtocol.STUDIES = [home 'data'];
% Get the protocol index
iProtocol = bst_get('Protocol', ProtocolName);
if isempty(iProtocol)
    error(['Unknown protocol: ' ProtocolName]);
% Select the current procotol
gui_brainstorm('SetCurrentProtocol', iProtocol);

Afterwards, you might add your analysis script. For example, you may create a script using the Brainstorm pipeline and add these lines to the top of your script and run it on the server.

To run a script using Brainstorm on a server you should check that there is a free matlab license on the server and RAM/Quota is big enough for the data you will create while processing. Also the Matlab version might differ from the version installed on your local computer. The lines above were tested using Matlab 2015b on a server.

A Brainstorm script can be executed either directly (it needs to start Brainstorm itself), or started using the syntax brainstorm <script.m> <parameters> (starts Brainstorm in server mode, executes the script and quit Brainstorm).

Brainstorm scripts can also be executed from the compiled version of Brainstorm, therefore not requiring a Matlab license, only the installation of the free MCR library (see the Installation page). Add the full path to the script to execute and the script parameters to the start script:
brainstorm3.bat <script.m> or brainstorm3.command <script.m>.

Finding interface callback functions

If you are looking for the function called by a menu or a button in the interface:

Additional documentation

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Tutorials/Scripting (last edited 2020-04-21 08:55:53 by FrancoisTadel)