Building an EEG Lab
Many researchers are now collecting EEG signals for analysis in their lab to reach a deeper understanding of the human brain. For a newly minted PhD looking to get started at a new university, to an experienced neuromarketing lab manager looking to upgrade their devices to something like a portable EEG, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Research Questions– what kind of research will I be conducting?
Creating the most optimal lab depends somewhat on the line of research you are looking to conduct. While you can optimally find a flexible solution that will work across multiple situations and disciplines, it’s still a good idea to consider the likely scenarios, stimuli, and participants that could be taking part in various experiments. For instance, research with children requires different procedures than with adults.
- Metrics & Data– what variables do I need? How do I operationalize my research question?
Ensuring your setup collects the proper data is critical. Different vendors have various ways of dealing with the data collected – some give completely raw output, others provide pre-calculated metrics for ease of use in the analysis portion of your study. One might have to conduct EEG signal processing in order to extract clean data, so generally being aware of the out-of-the-box metrics can be helpful.
- Software– do I have the right software platform to collect & analyze data?
Software helps you get the most out of your equipment. Bad software just slows down data collection, analysis, and in general causes headaches for the entire team. It’s best to find solutions that are flexible for the changing demands of research while also able to extract the data you need.
- Space– what do I have available to work with? What is the most optimal?
Setting up the right space in any experiment is critical to control for unwanted elements tampering with your final results. For instance, if you are combining eye tracking with EEG, you need to be careful of how much natural light you are letting into the space as well as the type of light fixtures that are in the room. Tracking the eye movements of a participant while they are wearing an EEG device can also call for additional, short calibration procedures and it’s important to be able to communicate with respondents to ensure they don’t have any questions.
- Multiple Physiological Sensors – what other sensors would I like to add to my setup?
The option to leverage your investment on a particular device and add other sensors to your experiments is critical to consider. Not only do you want the option to expand, it should be done easily without introducing unnecessary amounts of complexity into a solution. This is primarily a software issue – a platform like iMotions can give this flexible, scalable option. However, you also have to consider if devices like a StimTracker are necessary if extremely precise & granular timestamps are critical.
- Mobility – do I need to take any of my sensors on the road?
Certain experiments may call for samples that are out of the lab’s current geographic region. With this in mind, how easy is it to move hardware to capture data from a needed population? Wireless EEG options are available for purchase to help in these situations.
- Support – who will help me when there is a problem?
We’ve all been there – in the middle of an experiment, something goes wrong and jeopardizes data collection. It’s absolutely critical to ensure the companies you are working with are able to react quickly to these demands to keep you on track. It’s also a good idea to check if the support you have access to is knowledgeable about methodologies, hardware and software.
Looking for more best practices? Check out the video below: