Recently Developed Mobile EEG system for education of student researchers

Project Title: Recently Developed Mobile EEG system for education of student researchers

Long Title (if desired): The use of a recently developed Mobile EEG system to educate students in novel research techniques and design principles in an interdisciplinary context

Project Lead's Name: Anthony (Tony) Drew, M.S.

Project Lead's Email:

Project Lead's Phone: 563-568-8195

Project Lead's Division: CAS

Primary Department: Psychology

Other Team Members and their emails:

  • Max Teaford, M.S.,
  • Justin Hassebrock, M.A.,
  • Nathan Smith,
  • Leah Sprock,
  • Brendan Tracy,
  • Emma Feld,
  • Leonard Smart, PhD.,

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal:

  • Department of Psychology
  • Armstrong Interactive Media Institute
  • Miami University Center for Assistive Technology
  • Miami Design Collaborative

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 35

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 5

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem: This proposal seeks funds to purchase the Emotiv EPOC Flex Mobile EEG system for use as a cutting-edge tool to educate and train undergraduate and graduate students involved in Psychology and technology design research through the Smart Postural Control and Coordination (SPOCC) research lab. Electroencephalographic (EEG) data is recorded from the brain, and traditionally EEG has required participants to remain very still in order to collect reliable data. This constraint of traditional style EEG systems severely limits the behaviors and contexts in which human brain activity can be studied. The Emotiv Mobile EEG system is a new tool that allows recording of EEG data from human participants while they are standing and moving. This ability dramatically increases the contexts in which EEG data can be collected. This substantial jump in the ability to deploy EEG to novel and behaviorally relevant situations can be used to study links between brain activity and behaviors that have up-to-now been impossible to capture in typical research contexts. The SPOCC lab has a long history of developing exciting new research directions while using these opportunities to train and educate students in cutting edge design and analysis techniques.

Students involved with the SPOCC lab as graduate students, undergraduate research practicum students, or through other research initiatives such as the First Year Research Experience program, will have hands on access to the mobile EEG system throughout the process of research development and implementation. The SPOCC lab has recruited undergraduate research assistants, provided valuable experiential learning, and actively seeks to help students advance their careers by providing guidance and references for opportunities in graduate schools and work places. The principle investigator of the lab, Dr. Leonard Smart has provided mentorship and experience to undergraduate students throughout his 20 years as a professor at Miami, and this tool will be used in service of his goal of providing high quality research training in a hands-on context. Dr. Smart will serve as the faculty sponsor for this proposal. The project lead and author of this proposal, Anthony Drew, is a PhD student in Psychology and has experience mentoring undergraduate students in both research contexts and classroom environments. His academic focus involves using EEG and other measurement techniques to test theories of human cognition, and to inform design and interaction principles regarding technologies such as virtual or augmented reality. As a researcher, he has 5 years of experience conducting EEG and behavioral research, as well as training undergraduates to engage in that process. As a mentor he focuses both on practical skills and professional development, and has worked with students to develop their own research projects in a way that will productively serve their careers down the road. Anthony will serve as the mentor and project lead for projects using the requested technology in the next three years, and will collaborate with Dr. Smart and other graduate students to develop training protocols for incoming students, as well as form the final report for this proposal.

Projects in the SPOCC lab explore links between how humans tend to move their bodies and experience changes in their cognition. The mobile EEG system will allow direct measurements of brain activity to test and advance both theoretical understanding and real-world application of increasingly common and powerful technologies. In the immediate future the mobile EEG system will be used to study brain activity related to attention and decision making while participants are completing tasks in Virtual Reality. This combination of technology provides an exciting way to study how humans use information from immersive devices, and can help to understand how best to design these devices, or to research new interventions for conditions that impact both cognition and motor ability, such as Parkinson’s disease.

The mobile EEG system will also be used to study brain activity linked to motion sickness and other perturbances arising from the use of products like Virtual Reality. The SPOCC lab uses virtual reality and motion tracking technology to understand how a person’s visual perceptions and their postural motion can act to prevent or facilitate the development of motion sickness. By integrating this new mobile EEG system, these predictive factors can be investigated in brand new ways, and markers in the brain can be empirically linked to markers in a person’s experience or their behavior. Ultimately, this knowledge may allow researchers to explore preventative factors or interventions for motion sickness.

The Emotiv Mobile EEG system is comprised of the electrical sensor kit, 3 differently sized caps to fit the range of common adult head sizes, and a three-year license for analysis software used to process and manipulate the data collected from the sensors (an invoice of all components is attached to this proposal). The current proposal seeks to purchase a license that will provide students with this analysis capability for a time frame that will allow successful completion of several impactful research projects, and can be further renewed as more projects are created by targeting and requesting funds from more conventional sources such as the Psychology departmental discretionary funding pool. Anthony Drew and Dr. Smart are collaborating to build training materials and procedures for incoming graduate and undergraduate students to ensure the technology remains an accessible research tool for the future.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: The Emotive Mobile EEG system will allow student researchers to measure brain activity in a non-invasive way, while participants are completing real behaviors such as moving, walking, and talking. This ability is a break-through advancement for the use of EEG technology in behavioral research, which has traditionally required participants to remain very still in a chair. The Emotiv Mobile EEG system has been established as providing research quality data while participants are indeed walking and acting in a natural way (Debener et al., 2012; De vos, Gandras & Debener, 2014). In addition, the mobile EEG system will allow student researchers to simultaneously measure brain activity and a number of other variables which have not been possible until mobile EEG systems were recently developed. For example, researchers could simultaneously record a participant’s brain activity and their bodily motion while the participant interacts with objects or other people in Virtual Reality. The ability to pair these technologies in a variety of environments creates the opportunity to investigate questions that have never been asked before. For example, this system may allow researchers to pinpoint EEG markers preceding cognitive and motor errors in participants who may have experienced concussions. This kind of knowledge could be utilized to build a diagnostic tool of neurological symptoms of a concussion.

Trends in the tech industry indicate that the use of neurological measurement techniques are becoming central to investigating the optimal way to design and implement new products. New technologies requiring the use specific neural measurements, such as Brain-Control Interfaces, are becoming increasingly common and providing the tools to research and develop these technologies at Miami will provide students with a competitive edge in the tech job market. Students interacting with the Emotiv system can expect to learn about data collection and analysis techniques that are highly desirable in industry contexts such as user experience research, as well as academic or medical contexts such as screening for concussions or other neurological disturbances.

The SPOCC lab is interested in how human motor output is linked to cognition. The Emotive Mobile EEG system will allow our lab to conduct cutting edge research in this area, and to advance scientific theory as well as methodological best practices regarding the use of these systems. Students involved in this kind of work will be developing skills that are necessary in careers related to research design and analysis specific to the use of neurological measurement technologies. This technology will also create more opportunities for graduate students to provide mentorship to undergraduates, and to collaboratively develop research directions that all students can use to advance their careers. These new research directions reflect the growing need for this type of understanding and these specific skills both in academic settings, and in industrial contexts such as product development.

In addition, the system can be used for demonstrations in cognitive content courses such as Psychology 271, 451, and 473 as well as research-oriented courses such as the Psychology 352 and 375 practicum courses. The ease of access with this new technology allows students with no prior experience recording brain data from human participants to experience that process, develop understanding, and to build skills that may be relevant for fields in medicine, marketing, and technology design. This technology would broadly increase student access to the process of conducting neuroscience research on humans, in a manner that is non-invasive, efficient, and cost effective while also providing unique, high quality experiential learning.

Further, this proposal seeks to extend these opportunities through interdisciplinary initiatives at Miami. The SPOCC lab has collaborated as a part of the Miami University Center for Assistive Technology, the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies, and the Miami Design Collaborative to provide sources of education that are informed by many different perspectives. Both Dr. Smart and Anthony Drew have several years of experience collaborating with individuals through these initiatives to engage novel solutions to problems, and to break down practical barriers to collaborating across fields. The potential to research novel topics in technology and neuroscience has important career implications for students in Psychology, Computer Science and Engineering, Interactive Media Studies and Electrical Engineering, and the SPOCC lab has a strong history of collaborating with students from all of these disciplines. The Emotiv system will allow us to continue to reach a diverse group of students with valuable innovative skills that can help them attain positions in industrial, medical, or academic organizations.

How will you assess the success of the project: The success of this project will be evaluated in two ways. The first involves tracking career-specific outcomes from students who are involved in research with the technology through the SPOCC Lab. A brief survey has been created and will be distributed to students involved with the SPOCC lab at the end of every academic year. This survey is attached to the proposal as a supporting document, and is designed to track outcomes such as acceptance to graduate schools, attainment of jobs or internships, and the student’s perceptions that involvement in research at Miami has contributed to their success. This survey does not record personally identifying information, and all information collected from this outcome tracking survey as well as any research conducted with the Emotiv system will be stored in protected lab computers in accordance with approved Institutional Review Board protocols.

Second, success of this project will also be defined as the successful completion of research, and will be evaluated in part by dissemination of that research. The SPOCC lab has always maintained an expectation that students find an outlet to disseminate the findings of their research, for their growth as well as for the advancement of scientific knowledge. Graduate students completing research have presented work at national and international conferences such as the International Society for Ecological Psychology meeting, and the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. Graduate students also typically collaborate with faculty to write publications in a peer reviewed journals reporting the findings of their research. Undergraduate students involved in research typically present at campus research events such as the Undergraduate Research Forum, and some national or regional conferences such as the Midwestern Psychological Association’s annual meeting. Undergraduate students also have the opportunity to write publications under the mentorship of graduate students and faculty, and can even target undergraduate-specific journals such as Compass published here at Miami.

The results of the outcomes tracking survey as well as brief descriptions of events during which student research is disseminated will be submitted as a part of the final report. Information regarding new collaborations resulting from the use of this technology, images or descriptions used for outreach purposes, and any informal recognitions such as journalistic interviews will also be included. Additionally, materials generated for training incoming students will be included as evidence of the long-term viability of this research tool. I hope this proposal reflects the excitement we in the lab feel about getting a wide range of students involved in cutting edge research of neuroscience and technology. Devices such as the Emotiv mobile EEG system will open brand new doors in the science of human cognition and behavior, and our students at Miami can be on the front lines developing and learning from these novel and powerful methods.

If any additional information should be included in the final report, the author of this proposal will of course accommodate those suggestions. I will strive to ensure that the benefits of this opportunity are documented and reflect the strengths that Miami has to offer as a university that provides high quality education and produces students who lead industry by using skills that define the forefronts of their disciplines.

Total Amount Requested: $4,690.93

Budget Details: The Emotive Mobile EEG system is comprised of a sensor kit that records neural data, three different sized caps to ensure the system will fit most common head sizes (54, 56, 58 cm), and a three year license to analysis software. Attached is an invoice with the computed cost of all components. The invoice is addressed to the proposal author, but would of course be purchased by and delivered to Miami University (Psychology Department). This system costs $4690.93 and 100% of funds awarded will be used to purchase the system. To renew the software license after the three year period, we will target and request funding from other conventional sources such as the Psychology departmental discretionary funding pool.

Is this a multi-year request: No

Please address how, if at all, this project impacts any of Miami's BCSAE, 2020, or divisional plans: The significance and innovation of this proposal fall directly in line with the foundational goals of the Miami 2020 plan. By using this technology, and participating in all levels of the research process, students will engage in critical thinking and problem-solving strategies that are key to transformational educational experiences in research and design (Foundational Goal 1). The interdisciplinary nature of the SPOCC lab and its collaborations will only be strengthened by the addition of this new research opportunity, and students from many academic or demographic backgrounds will be invited to engage in the process of research to support their own long-term career goals. The potential to facilitate a culture of inclusion, and to promote “cross-talk” between fields or between groups of people who seldom interact is a major advantage for this technology, and the SPOCC lab will continue to recruit and invest in a diverse group of student researchers (Foundational Goal 2). Finally, the powerful ability for this type of technology to investigate brain activity in very novel situations is desirable in many organizations outside of Miami University. This can help to build concrete collaborations between Miami and other organizations such as local hospitals, advocacy groups, and businesses, or national and international corporations such as HTC or Facebook (Foundational Goal 3).

Similarly, the use of this new technology for student research training continues the pursuit of the criteria laid out by the Boldy Creative Strategic Academic Enrichment initiative. Specifically, research conducted with the Emotiv system will advance knowledge regarding increasingly popular and useful technologies, such as best practices when pairing mobile neurological recording equipment with virtual or augmented reality products. The experiential education that students are exposed to with this proposed technology will better prepare them to harness real skills that are valuable and desirable in fields that require innovative and problem-based skill sets. Further, the innovative nature of the research that can be conducted will help to build more connections to organizations outside of Miami University, and can enhance Miami's reputation as a producer of creative, high performing individuals, as well as build concrete partnerships with organizations such as tech companies, hospitals, or advocacy groups.