EEG in everyday life: As scientists and researchers, we have asked ourselves – what happens in our brain when we play darts or table football? How does it actually work and why can we sometimes not react as fast as we want? We have investigated these interesting activities using BESA software together with mBrainTrain, a manufacturer and pioneer of fully portable, mobile EEG devices and have come to interesting results.
Who are you and what is your professional background?
I am a Multi-Modal Scientist and Test Manager at BESA. But most importantly I am a researcher. My career path took a few interesting turns. I studied at Warsaw University of Technology in the Electronics Faculty. For my master’s thesis in engineering, I established the first simultaneous EEG-fMRI pipeline in Poland, which was pioneering work back then. I went on to the World Hearing Center in Warsaw, where I continued using this technique in research and preclinical applications, e.g. for evaluating brain correlates of dyslexia treatment, which lead to a Ph.D. at the Medical University of Warsaw. After this, I worked for GE as Eastern European Clinical Lead, and finally, I ended up at BESA. Here I can exploit all the skills I have, the multimodal data processing knowledge, software development, research attitude, and customer-oriented approach. All in all, I always wanted to know more about how the brain works and deliver tools that will help others with a similar goal.
How did you get the idea to study brain activity outside the medical lab?
From time to time in daily life we come across situations that we simply don’t understand. For example, have you ever played table soccer? There is a certain ball speed (between fast and slow) that you cannot react to as a goalie. Why? What is going on? Moreover, how can we actually play table soccer? It is complicated when you think about it – hand-to-eye coordination, reflex decision making… and we still consider this as entertainment? Darts – another case of eye-to-hand coordination – is there a mechanism at play similar to table soccer or totally different? Or another example: why, when we leave a warm room to go out to the cold, initially we don’t feel the cold, then we feel it quite strongly but at some point we get used to it. All those questions are puzzling me constantly and I could not leave it unexplained.
How did the collaboration between BESA and mbt come about?
We met Ivan (mbt CEO) and his colleagues at the OHBM conference in Rome in 2019. We started talking and it showed that we share a mutual passion for brain study, plus that our products can work together. The data quality of their mobile EEG was extraordinary, matching lab quality. Ivan was also impressed with how efficiently and easily we can perform data analysis and source estimation using BESA. I grabbed the example data from mbt (checkboard visual cortex stimulation) registered using 24 channels mobile EEG (Smarting MOBI) and we easily managed to show activation in the visual cortex. We both started thinking that this is a new era for brain study. Why not start doing EEG in everyday life to shed a light on these tiny questions that we have but never have time to investigate?
How do the products of mbt and BESA fit together? How do they complement each other?
That is quite easy, yet not so obvious. For many years EEG was performed in the lab due to technical difficulties. We needed electrically shielded rooms and quite heavy hardware. Over time, the number of EEG channels increased, hardware size decreased and advanced numerical methods of data analysis bloomed. It is generally believed that for proper source analysis you need an EEG study to be performed in the lab so the quality is assured and the number of channels is sufficient. For a long time that was indeed only possible in the lab. Therefore, when mobile solutions for EEG established themselves no one considered that the known advanced data analysis methods could be used there. In the contrary, the emerging mobile EEG community was starting with basic data analysis embracing its limitations. However, over the years the gap between mobile and lab solutions began to vanish. Recently mbt introduced a 32-channel mobile EEG system (Smarting PRO) whose data is perfect to be used for advanced data analysis methods delivered by BESA: for example source localization and connectivity analysis.
What are the first findings/results?
So far we performed two EEG recordings in the BESA office: during a table soccer session and during playing darts. Our first approach was to analyze the darts playing session and we found a very interesting network related to a reaction to the throw. The visual cortex and motor cortex are sending information back to the ventrolateral area of the middle frontal gyrus in the left hemisphere. This brain region, according to the Brainnetome atlas (1), is responsible for action execution and motor learning as well as visual perception and spatial cognition! It is quite an extraordinary and really encouraging result to start with, don’t you think? We will now try to check if the table soccer triggers the same or a different network, using the BESA Connectivity software. More info on the pictures below.
Figure 1: The brain network connectivity pattern triggered after throwing the dart
Figure 2: The main node of the network activation triggered by dart throw – ventrolateral area 6 in left hemisphere (Brainnetome A6vl_L)
Figure 3: Just a regular day in the office 😉 #EEGinEveryday & the table soccer ball tracking system
Figure 4: Darts session: The participant is playing darts while his EEG is being recorded, and we use the camera from the recoding mobile phone as additional stream. Video data is recorded simultaneously with EEG using a mobile phone.
In this short blog post, we have shown how one interesting, daily activity such as darts can be observed, recorded and analyzed using pioneering research tools. We, BESA along with mbt, think that many of these everyday setups could now be replicated and could possibly uncover some amazing findings – outside of the restricted laboratory setting. We are looking forward to hearing about more and more everyday use cases in which pioneering researchers step out of their labs into the real world – and we will continue to support them with our hardware and software.
More about BESA
More about mBrainTrain
(1) Fan, Lingzhong, Hai Li, Junjie Zhuo, Yu Zhang, Jiaojian Wang, Liangfu Chen, Zhengyi Yang, et al. 2016. “The Human Brainnetome Atlas: A New Brain Atlas Based on Connectional Architecture.” Cerebral Cortex 26 (8): 3508–26.