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Identifying auditory attention with ear-EEG: cEEGrid versus high-density cap-EEG comparison

Identifying auditory attention with ear-EEG: cEEGrid versus high-density cap-EEG comparison

Martin G Bleichner, Bojana Mirkovic and Stefan Debener
Journal of Neural Engineering, Volume 13, Number 6

Objective. This study presents a direct comparison of a classical EEG cap setup with a new around-the-ear electrode array (cEEGrid) to gain a better understanding of the potential of ear-centered EEG.Approach. Concurrent EEG was recorded from a classical scalp EEG cap and two cEEGrids that were placed around the left and the right ear. Twenty participants performed a spatial auditory attention task in which three sound streams were presented simultaneously. The sound streams were three seconds long and differed in the direction of origin (front, left, right) and the number of beats (3, 4, 5 respectively), as well as the timbre and pitch. The participants had to attend to either the left or the right sound stream. Main results. We found clear attention modulated ERP effects reflecting the attended sound stream for both electrode setups, which agreed in morphology and effect size. A single-trial template matching classification showed that the direction of attention could be decoded significantly above chance (50%) for at least 16 out of 20 participants for both systems. The comparably high classification results of the single trial analysis underline the quality of the signal recorded with the cEEGrids. Significance. These findings are further evidence for the feasibility of around the-ear EEG recordings and demonstrate that well described ERPs can be measured. We conclude that concealed behind-the-ear EEG recordings can be an alternative to classical cap EEG acquisition for auditory attention monitoring.

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