The Emotiv System – using gaming technology to gain insights into the brain

Auditory event-related potentials (auditory ERPs) reflect the average pattern of electrical activity released by brain cells in response to a particular sound (eg a spoken word, a sentence, a musical note, a short melody), which are measured using electrodes placed on the scalp.

Auditory ERPs can be useful because they provide theoretical insights into the processing of sound in the brain. A limitation to using auditory ERPs for research is that they can be challenging to measure for multiple reasons.

Auditory ERPs are typically measured in an experimental laboratory full of technical equipment, which can be a deterrent for some people, particularly children or individuals with cognitive disorders.

Typical ERP measurement sessions can also be lengthy, since it can take 30 to 60 minutes just to place the electrodes on the scalp.  In addition, scalp electrodes are often attached to the scalp with a thick gel, which can only be removed by thoroughly washing the entire head.

In recent times, the commercial video-gaming industry has produced a piece of equipment that may overcome all of these obstacles. These gaming EEG systems use electrical brain activity to control the movement of characters or objects in games via unobtrusive headsets and are significantly less expensive than ERP systems commonly used for research.

The Emotiv System is one of these gaming EEG systems that has been converted into an ERP system. The ERPs measured with this new system were validated against a research-grade ERP system. The Emotiv system may help take ERP experiments out of the laboratory and into the real world.

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