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Front Neurosci. 2015 Nov 18;9:438. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00438. eCollection 2015.

EEG Recorded from the Ear: Characterizing the Ear-EEG Method.

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Department of Engineering, Aarhus University Aarhus, Denmark.
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Imperial College London, UK.


Highlights Auditory middle and late latency responses can be recorded reliably from ear-EEG.For sources close to the ear, ear-EEG has the same signal-to-noise-ratio as scalp.Ear-EEG is an excellent match for power spectrum-based analysis. A method for measuring electroencephalograms (EEG) from the outer ear, so-called ear-EEG, has recently been proposed. The method could potentially enable robust recording of EEG in natural environments. The objective of this study was to substantiate the ear-EEG method by using a larger population of subjects and several paradigms. For rigor, we considered simultaneous scalp and ear-EEG recordings with common reference. More precisely, 32 conventional scalp electrodes and 12 ear electrodes allowed a thorough comparison between conventional and ear electrodes, testing several different placements of references. The paradigms probed auditory onset response, mismatch negativity, auditory steady-state response and alpha power attenuation. By comparing event related potential (ERP) waveforms from the mismatch response paradigm, the signal measured from the ear electrodes was found to reflect the same cortical activity as that from nearby scalp electrodes. It was also found that referencing the ear-EEG electrodes to another within-ear electrode affects the time-domain recorded waveform (relative to scalp recordings), but not the timing of individual components. It was furthermore found that auditory steady-state responses and alpha-band modulation were measured reliably with the ear-EEG modality. Finally, our findings showed that the auditory mismatch response was difficult to monitor with the ear-EEG. We conclude that ear-EEG yields similar performance as conventional EEG for spectrogram-based analysis, similar timing of ERP components, and equal signal strength for sources close to the ear. Ear-EEG can reliably measure activity from regions of the cortex which are located close to the ears, especially in paradigms employing frequency-domain analyses.


alpha band power; auditory evoked potentials; auditory steady-state response; ear-EEG; mobile EEG

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