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Assessing focus through ear-EEG: a comparative study between conventional cap EEG and mobile in- and around-the-ear EEG systems


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Crétot-Richert, Gabrielle, De Vos, Maarten, Debener, Stefan, Bleichner, Martin G. and Voix, Jérémie. 2023. « Assessing focus through ear-EEG: a comparative study between conventional cap EEG and mobile in- and around-the-ear EEG systems ». Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 17.

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ntroduction: As our attention is becoming a commodity that an ever-increasing number of applications are competing for, investing in modern day tools and devices that can detect our mental states and protect them from outside interruptions holds great value. Mental fatigue and distractions are impacting our ability to focus and can cause workplace injuries. Electroencephalography (EEG) may reflect concentration, and if EEG equipment became wearable and inconspicuous, innovative brain-computer interfaces (BCI) could be developed to monitor mental load in daily life situations. The purpose of this study is to investigate the potential of EEG recorded inside and around the human ear to determine levels of attention and focus. Methods: In this study, mobile and wireless ear-EEG were concurrently recorded with conventional EEG (cap) systems to collect data during tasks related to focus: an N-back task to assess working memory and a mental arithmetic task to assess cognitive workload. The power spectral density (PSD) of the EEG signal was analyzed to isolate consistent differences between mental load conditions and classify epochs using step-wise linear discriminant analysis (swLDA). Results and discussion: Results revealed that spectral features differed statistically between levels of cognitive load for both tasks. Classification algorithms were tested on spectral features from twelve and two selected channels, for the cap and the ear-EEG. A two-channel ear-EEG model evaluated the performance of two dry in-ear electrodes specifically. Single-trial classification for both tasks revealed above chance-level accuracies for all subjects, with mean accuracies of: 96% (cap- EEG) and 95% (ear-EEG) for the twelve-channel models, 76% (cap-EEG) and 74% (in-ear-EEG) for the two-channel model for the N-back task; and 82% (cap-EEG) and 85% (ear-EEG) for the twelve-channel, 70% (cap-EEG) and 69% (in-ear-EEG) for the two-channel model for the arithmetic task. These results suggest that neural oscillations recorded with ear-EEG can be used to reliably differentiate between levels of cognitive workload and working memory, in particular when multi-channel recordings are available, and could, in the near future, be integrated into wearable devices.

Item Type: Peer reviewed article published in a journal
Voix, Jérémie
Affiliation: Génie mécanique
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2023 15:22
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2023 16:00

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