The Smart Phone Brain Scanner: A Portable Real-Time Neuroimaging System

            Technology never ceases to amaze. A portable headset containing EEG technology called a neuro-headset now is described as the first fully portable system for real time 3D images of brain activity.This trend of fitting mini-sized gadgets into a pocket isn’t something new. It’s happened before with accelerometer-sensors and smartphones and tables are capable of sensing, processing, transmitting, and presenting information. Yet, in many fields there’s a need for mobility. Even a single channel EEG recording measuring the changes in electrical potentials allows for measuring mental concentration and drowsiness by assessing the relative distribution of frequencies in brain-wave patterns throughout the day. Consumer-grade neuro-headsets, capable of recording brain activity generated by post-synaptic potentials of firing neurons, captured through electrodes placed on the scalp using EEG, have only made mobile brain monitoring feasible.

The Smartphone Brain Scanner (SBS2) is a software platform for building research-oriented and end-user oriented multi-platform EEG applications. The target devices are mobile (smartphones, tablets) and consumer-grade neuro-systems. The SBS2 framework is divided into three layers: low-level data acquisition, data processing, and applications. The first two layers are the core of the system and include common elements used by various applications.

The data acquisition layer is responsible for setting up communications with an EEG device, acquiring the raw data, and forming packets. The additional acquisition layer is designed to support the Emotiv EEG Headset, EasyCap hardware, and other hardware. The data processing is accomplished by the well-formed EEG packet objects. Single packets are dispatched to different processing objects and methods, including recording, filtering, 3D reconstruction, etc. The framework for data processing is extensible and new modules can be added to the core; the data handler prepares the data in a format expected by the processing block and runs the processing method. The most advanced data-processing block of the smartphone Brain Scanner is the source reconstruction aimed at real-time 3D imaging. Source reconstruction estimates the current sources within the brain most likely to have generated the observed EEG signal at scalp level.

The evaluation showed that the combined system provides for a stable imaging pipeline with a delay of 80-120 ms. Compared with state-of-the-art laboratory grade equipment, the smartphone brain scanner’s average power in the alpha band in a relevant motor area compared favorably. Future developments in hardware and software will allow for even greater signal acquisition and analysis from low-density and mobile setups. The greater the software power, the more powerful the data processing and de-noising of algorithms. Although not at the level of mass marketing, a new research direction for imaging neuroscience is being created.


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