Measurement of Autistic Children's Brain Responses with Emotiv EEG

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
J. Brock1, A. Woolgar2 and N. A. Badcock3, (1)Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia, (2)Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, (3)Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Background: The Emotiv EPOC is a cheap, portable, wireless electroencephalography (EEG) headset designed originally for the computer gaming market. Set-up time is quick (approximately 5 minutes) and simply involves adjusting the position of 16 saline-soaked cotton pads on the participant’s scalp. Recently, we have adapted the Emotiv system to record event-related potentials (ERPs) to visual and auditory stimuli. In validation studies with typically developing children and adults, we have shown that ERP waveforms measured using the Emotiv system are comparable to those recorded simultaneously using a research-grade NeuroScan EEG system (Badcock et al., 2013, 2015).

Objectives: In this study, our aim was to determine the feasibility of the Emotiv system for use with children on the autism spectrum

Methods: We tested nine 8- to 12-year-old autistic children on an auditory oddball task in which they listened to sequences comprised of 85% standard tones (1000 Hz) and 15% deviant tones (1200 Hz). Brain responses recorded using the Emotiv EEG system were compared to those of age-matched typically developing children tested using identical procedures as part of our validation study (Badcock et al., 2015).

Results: All nine autistic children were able to tolerate the testing procedures. The prominent N1 and P3 responses to the standard tone were comparable to those of typically developing children. Autistic children also showed a clear mismatch negativity, calculated as the difference between responses to the standard and deviant tones.

Conclusions: Results provide preliminary validation of the Emotiv EEG system for autism research. The rapid set-up time and comfort of the headset make it especially suitable for studies of children whose sensory issues might mean they were unable to participate in EEG research. Given its low cost, portability, and ease of use, the Emotiv system could also be used in clinical settings and in large-scale, multi-centre studies looking for EEG markers of autism subtypes.