A Structured Approach to Test the Signal Quality of Electroencephalography Measurements During Use of Head-Mounted Displays for Virtual Reality Applications

D. Weber, S. Hertweck, H. Alwanni, L. Fiederer, X. Wang, F. Unruh, M. Fischbach, M. Latoschik, and T. Ball. Frontiers in Neuroscience (2021)


Joint applications of virtual reality (VR) systems and electroencephalography (EEG) offer numerous new possibilities ranging from behavioral science to therapy. VR systems allow for highly controlled experimental environments, while EEG offers a non-invasive window to brain activity with a millisecond-ranged temporal resolution. However, EEG measurements are highly susceptible to electromagnetic (EM) noise and the influence of EM noise of head-mounted-displays (HMDs) on EEG signal quality has not been conclusively investigated. In this paper, we propose a structured approach to test HMDs for EM noise potentially harmful to EEG measures. The approach verifies the impact of HMDs on the frequency- and time-domain of the EEG signal recorded in healthy subjects. The verification task includes a comparison of conditions with and without an HMD during (i) an eyes-open vs. eyes-closed task, and (ii) with respect to the sensory- evoked brain activity. The approach is developed and tested to derive potential effects of two commercial HMDs, the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive Pro, on the quality of 64-channel EEG measurements. The results show that the HMDs consistently introduce artifacts, especially at the line hum of 50 Hz and the HMD refresh rate of 90 Hz, respectively, and their harmonics. The frequency range that is typically most important in non-invasive EEG research and applications (<50 Hz) however, remained largely unaffected. Hence, our findings demonstrate that high-quality EEG recordings, at least in the frequency range up to 50 Hz, can be obtained with the two tested HMDs. However, the number of commercially available HMDs is constantly rising. We strongly suggest to thoroughly test such devices upfront since each HMD will most likely have its own EM footprint and this article provides a structured approach to implement such tests with arbitrary devices.

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