Surfing Brainwaves with EEG: A Classic Tool for Recording Temporal Brain Dynamics

Knowing Neurons

Pictures are powerful tools for illustrating quantitative data and capturing public interest.  Each year, NASA releases many beautiful images of Martian dunes and distant nebulae which help win public funding.  Likewise, when it comes to grabbing headlines and commanding public attention, noninvasive studies of functional brain activity often do best when they beautifully illustrate said activity as colorful pixels dancing on the convoluted surface of the cerebral cortex.


However, these images are missing a critical dimension: time.  Brain activity takes place on a millisecond timescale, yet functional MRI captures this activity at a rate of about one full brain scan per second.  This is rather akin to watching a movie filmed at a rate of one frame per second.

Joel is wearing an EEG cap. Joel is wearing an EEG cap.

EEG, short for electroencephalogram, is a comparatively old technology, first introduced by Hans Berger in 1929, in which electrodes placed on the scalp record…

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