Human Achievement of the Day: At-home Brain Scanner

While traditional brain scanning techniques — such as positron emission tomography (PET scans), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs), and traditional electroencephalograms (EEGs) — provide significantly more data about brain activity, the bulky and expensive equipment is uncomfortable for patients and must be conducted in hospital or research labs, providing a biased picture of brain activity. That is why the mobile EEG device created by a research team at the Milab at the Technological University of Denmark has been called a “game changer” in understanding how the brain works.

The Emotiv EEG headset, which is used in conjunction with a smartphone, can be worn throughout the day to observe subjects’ brain activity “in the wild.” Specifically, the Danish researchers have made their system compatible with the Nokia N900 smartphone: a person wears the Emotiv headset and the brain wave data is processed on the phone into a 3D reconstruction of the activity and stored for researchers to investigate further.

Such naturalistic observations of brain activity will give researchers a better understanding of how the mind reacts to environmental factors. According to the Milab team, this instantaneous feedback can have significant effects on clinical observations of numerous cognitive disorders, such as hyperactivity, epilepsy, and others.