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Biomed Eng Online. 2017 Aug 11;16(1):103. doi: 10.1186/s12938-017-0391-2.

Physiological artifacts in scalp EEG and ear-EEG.

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Department of Engineering, Aarhus University, Finlandsgade 22, 8200, Aarhus N, Denmark.
Pindrop, 817 West Peachtree Street NW, Suite 770, 24105, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Imperial College, London, SW7 2BT, UK.
Department of Engineering, Aarhus University, Finlandsgade 22, 8200, Aarhus N, Denmark.



A problem inherent to recording EEG is the interference arising from noise and artifacts. While in a laboratory environment, artifacts and interference can, to a large extent, be avoided or controlled, in real-life scenarios this is a challenge. Ear-EEG is a concept where EEG is acquired from electrodes in the ear.


We present a characterization of physiological artifacts generated in a controlled environment for nine subjects. The influence of the artifacts was quantified in terms of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) deterioration of the auditory steady-state response. Alpha band modulation was also studied in an open/closed eyes paradigm.


Artifacts related to jaw muscle contractions were present all over the scalp and in the ear, with the highest SNR deteriorations in the gamma band. The SNR deterioration for jaw artifacts were in general higher in the ear compared to the scalp. Whereas eye-blinking did not influence the SNR in the ear, it was significant for all groups of scalps electrodes in the delta and theta bands. Eye movements resulted in statistical significant SNR deterioration in both frontal, temporal and ear electrodes. Recordings of alpha band modulation showed increased power and coherence of the EEG for ear and scalp electrodes in the closed-eyes periods.


Ear-EEG is a method developed for unobtrusive and discreet recording over long periods of time and in real-life environments. This study investigated the influence of the most important types of physiological artifacts, and demonstrated that spontaneous activity, in terms of alpha band oscillations, could be recorded from the ear-EEG platform. In its present form ear-EEG was more prone to jaw related artifacts and less prone to eye-blinking artifacts compared to state-of-the-art scalp based systems.


Alpha band modulation; Ear-EEG; Physiological artifacts; Wearable EEG

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