Portable EEG as a powerful tool for predicting a child’s developmental trajectory – a pilot study

  • ERP
  • auditory attention
  • infant EEG
  • neural oscillations
  • synchronization

One of the essential phases of childhood is early development. The interventions for developmental disabilities are most effective. The challenge lies in identifying developmental issues before they manifest clinically.

Neonatal auditory and visual event-related potentials (ERPs) have shown potential in predicting a child’s developmental trajectory.

With the advancements in technology, portable EEG systems are emerging as a practical means to record ERPs, even outside laboratory settings.

EEG predicts child development using MMN

Decoding the Auditory Oddball Paradigm using portable EEG

This study, part of an ongoing longitudinal pilot, utilized the auditory oddball stimulus paradigm.

This paradigm consists of a standard tone that is occasionally replaced by a rare tone. During the EEG recording, the LSL event markers were sent at the onset of the sound. This way, the ERPs can be recorded and analysed.

The hypothesis was that the larger amplitudes and shorter latencies may hint at better cognitive outcome for the child. This study’s analysed mismatch negativity (MMN). MMN is a measure of the automatic detection of sounds when an acoustic change occurs.

The Study’s Approach and Execution

Infants from Sri Lanka, aged two months, were the subjects of this study. The selection included both term-born and preterm infants. The study excluded the infants with specific medical histories.

The team conducted ERP studies using the classic oddball paradigm and a portable EEG system SMARTING. This study spanned both hospital settings and participants’ homes. The study demonstrated the portable EEG system’s versatility.

Key Discoveries: The study yielded several exciting findings

1. There was a notable relationship between birth weight and mismatch negativity (MMN). This finding suggests that neonates with lower birth weights had reduced MMN.

MMN ERP results recorded with portable EEG
Grand average Event Related potentials (ERPs) recorded from terms (left) and pre-terms (right). The mismatch negativity is denoted with cyan lines. The expected greater negative deflection with the novel (oddball) tone compared with the standard tone time was observed.

2. While the study noted a smaller MMN in preterm infants, the difference wasn’t statistically significant.

3. The location (home vs. hospital) did not affect the quality or nature of the MMN acquired.

4. An interesting discovery was in the time-frequency analysis. This analysis showed power differences at approximately 5 and 18 Hz, comparing standard vs. oddball tones.

Time frequency differences in MMN
Time-frequency analysis of all the participants. Power difference between the total spectral power of the oddball stimulus minus the standard stimulus are shown. multiple power bursts underlying novelty detection at approximately 5 and 18 Hz are notable in the image.

Inferring from the Findings

The potential of portable EEG technology to function seamlessly in both hospital and home settings was evident. A significant observation was the reduced MMN in neonates with lower birth weights. This finding was consistent with previous research.

The absence of significant differences between data acquired at home vs. hospital settings underlines the portable EEG system’s robustness and user-friendliness.

Moreover, the introduction of time-frequency analysis suggests the potential of identifying individual frequencies modulated by an event. All these findings offer another dimension to EEG analysis.

Implications and Potential Applications

The adaptability of portable EEG systems can be a game-changer, especially in developing nations like Sri Lanka.

If subsequent research validates the ERP data’s potential to foresee developmental outcomes.

This finding could revolutionize the early identification of children who would benefit the most from developmental interventions. This is particularly impactful in regions where developmental assessments face various barriers.

In Summary

The essence of this study revolves around the feasibility of portable EEG systems to detect early developmental concerns via auditory stimulation.

While the sample size was modest and the findings preliminary, the potential implications of such technology, especially in regions with limited healthcare resources, make it a promising avenue for future research.

Publication source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0887899421001107

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