Recording from simulations

The spike_detector has been renamed to spike_recorder. The main rationale behind this is that the device is actually not detecting the occurence of spikes, but rather only records them. Moreover, the new name is more consistent with the naming of other similar devices that also end in _recorder.

In NEST 2.x, all recording modalities (i.e. screen, memory, and files) were handled by a single C++ class. Due to the many different responsibilities and the resulting complexity of this class, extending and maintaining it was rather burdensome.

With NEST 3.0 we replaced this single class by an extensible and modular infrastructure for handling recordings: each modality is now taken care of by a specific recording backend and each recorder can use one of them to handle its data.

NEST 3.0 provides individual recording backends for all modalities that were supported in NEST 2.x. Depending on the features selected during the configuration of NEST, additional backend become available: Support for SIONlib leads to the inclusion of a backend for writing binary files in parallel on large clusters and supercomputers. If MPI is enabled, a special data exchange backend is built, which is useful in co-simulation scenarios.

See the guide on recording from simulations for details on potentially available recording backends.


In NEST 2.x, the recording modality was selected by either providing a list of modalities to the record_to property, or by setting one or more of the flags to_file, to_memory, or to_screen to True.

In NEST 3.0, the individual flags are gone, and the record_to property now expects the name of the backend you want to use. Recording to multiple modalities from a single device is no longer possible. Individual devices have to be created and configured if this functionality is needed.

The following examples assume that the variable mm points to a multimeter instance, i.e., mm = nest.Create('multimeter') was executed.

NEST 2.x

NEST 3.0

nest.SetStatus(mm, {'record_to': ["file"]})
nest.SetStatus(mm, {'record_to': ["screen"]})
nest.SetStatus(mm, {'record_to': ["memory"]})
mm.record_to = "ascii"
mm.record_to = "screen"
mm.record_to = "memory"
nest.SetStatus(mm, {'to_file': True})
nest.SetStatus(mm, {'to_screen': True})
nest.SetStatus(mm, {'to_memory': True})
mm.record_to = "ascii"
mm.record_to = "screen"
mm.record_to = "memory"

You can retrieve the list of available backends using the following command:


Previously, the content and formatting of any output created by a recording device could be configured in a fine-grained fashion using flags like withgid, withtime, withweight, withport, among others. In many cases, this, however, lead to a confusing variety of possible interpretations of data columns for the resulting output.

As storage space is usually not a concern nowadays, the new infrastructure does not have this plethora of options, but rather always writes all available data. In addition, most backends now write the name of the recorded variable for each column as a descriptive meta-data header prior to writing any data.

The accumulator_mode of the multimeter has been dropped, as it was not used by anyone to the best of our knowledge and supporting it made the code more complex and prone to errors. In case of high user demand, the functionality will be re-added in form of a recording backend.

All details about the new infrastructure can be found in the guide on recording from simulations.