Feasibility of Repeated Assessment of Cognitive Function in Older Adults Using a Wireless, Mobile, Dry-EEG Headset and Tablet-Based Games

Esther C. McWilliams, Florentine M. Barbey, John F. Dyer, Md Nurul Islam, Bernadette McGuinness, Brian Murphy, Hugh Nolan, Peter Passmore, Laura M. Rueda-Delgado, Alison R. Buick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Access to affordable, objective and scalable biomarkers of brain function is needed to transform the healthcare burden of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disease. Electroencephalography (EEG) recordings, both resting and in combination with targeted cognitive tasks, have demonstrated utility in tracking disease state and therapy response in a range of conditions from schizophrenia to Alzheimer's disease. But conventional methods of recording this data involve burdensome clinic visits, and behavioural tasks that are not effective in frequent repeated use. This paper aims to evaluate the technical and human-factors feasibility of gathering large-scale EEG using novel technology in the home environment with healthy adult users. In a large field study, 89 healthy adults aged 40–79 years volunteered to use the system at home for 12 weeks, 5 times/week, for 30 min/session. A 16-channel, dry-sensor, portable wireless headset recorded EEG while users played gamified cognitive and passive tasks through a tablet application, including tests of decision making, executive function and memory. Data was uploaded to cloud servers and remotely monitored via web-based dashboards. Seventy-eight participants completed the study, and high levels of adherence were maintained throughout across all age groups, with mean compliance over the 12-week period of 82% (4.1 sessions per week). Reported ease of use was also high with mean System Usability Scale scores of 78.7. Behavioural response measures (reaction time and accuracy) and EEG components elicited by gamified stimuli (P300, ERN, Pe and changes in power spectral density) were extracted from the data collected in home, across a wide range of ages, including older adult participants. Findings replicated well-known patterns of age-related change and demonstrated the feasibility of using low-burden, large-scale, longitudinal EEG measurement in community-based cohorts. This technology enables clinically relevant data to be recorded outside the lab/clinic, from which metrics underlying cognitive ageing could be extracted, opening the door to potential new ways of developing digital cognitive biomarkers for disorders affecting the brain.
Original languageEnglish
Article number574482
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2021


  • Psychiatry
  • EEG
  • EEG biomarker
  • cognition
  • gamification
  • mobile EEG


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