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Dry EEG in Sports Sciences: A Fast and Reliable Tool to Assess Individual Alpha Peak Frequency Changes Induced by Physical Effort

Dry EEG in Sports Sciences: A Fast and Reliable Tool to Assess Individual Alpha Peak Frequency Changes Induced by Physical Effort

Selenia Di Fronso, Patrique Fiedler, Gabriella Tamburro, Jens Haueisen, Maurizio Bertollo, Silvia Comani
Frontiers in Neuroscience

Novel state-of-the-art amplifier and cap systems enable Electroencephalography (EEG) recording outside of stationary lab systems during physical exercise and body motion. However, extensive preparation time, cleaning, and limited long-term stability of conventional gel-based electrode systems pose significant limitations in out-of-the-lab conditions. Dry electrode systems may contribute to rapid and repetitive mobile EEG acquisition with significantly reduced preparation time, reduced cleaning requirements, and possible self-application by the volunteer but are known for higher channel failure probability and increased sensitivity to movement artifacts. We performed a counterbalanced repeated measure endurance cycling study to objectively validate the performance and applicability of a novel commercially available 64-channel dry electrode cap for sport science. A total of 17 healthy volunteers participated in the study, performing an endurance cycling paradigm comprising five phases: (I) baseline EEG, (II) pre-cycling EEG, (III) endurance cycling, (IV) active recovery, and (V) passive recovery. We compared the performance of the 64-channel dry electrode cap with a commercial gel-based cap system in terms of usability metrics, reliability, and signal characteristics. Furthermore, we validated the performance of the dry cap during a realistic sport science investigation, verifying the hypothesis of a systematic, reproducible shift of the individual alpha peak frequency (iAPF) induced by physical effort. The average preparation time of the dry cap was one-third of the gel-based electrode caps. The average channel reliability of the dry cap varied between 80 ± 15% (Phase I), 66 ± 19% (Phase III), and 91 ± 10% (Phase V). In comparison, the channel reliability of the gel-based cap varied between 95 ± 3, 85 ± 9, and 82 ± 9%, respectively. No considerable differences were evident for the comfort evaluations nor the signal characteristics of both caps. A within-volunteers repeated measure analysis of variance (RM-ANOVA) did not show significant effects of the electrode type on the iAPF [F(1,12) = 1.670, p = 0.221, η2p = 0.122, Power = 0.222]. However, a significant increase of the iAPF exists from Phase II to Phases IV and V due to exhaustive physical task. In conclusion, we demonstrated that dry electrode cap is equivalent to the gel-based electrode cap based on signal characteristics, comfort, and signal information content, thereby confirming the usefulness of dry electrodes in sports science and other mobile applications involving ample movement.


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