Cannard, C., Wahbeh, H., Delorme, A. (2021) Electroencephalography Correlates of Well-Being Using a Low-Cost Wearable System. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 15(736).
Electroencephalography (EEG) alpha asymmetry is thought to reflect crucial brain processes underlying executive control, motivation, and affect. It has been widely used in psychopathology and, more recently, in novel neuromodulation studies. However, inconsistencies remain in the field due to the lack of consensus in methodological approaches employed and the recurrent use of small samples. Wearable technologies ease the collection of large and diversified EEG datasets that better reflect the general population, allow longitudinal monitoring of individuals, and facilitate real-world experience sampling. We tested the feasibility of using a low-cost wearable headset to collect a relatively large EEG database (N = 230, 22–80 years old, 64.3% female), and an open-source automatic method to preprocess it. We then examined associations between well-being levels and the alpha center of gravity (CoG) as well as trait EEG asymmetries, in the frontal and temporoparietal (TP) areas. Robust linear regression models did not reveal an association between well-being and alpha (8–13 Hz) asymmetry in the frontal regions, nor with the CoG. However, well-being was associated with alpha asymmetry in the TP areas (i.e., corresponding to relatively less left than right TP cortical activity as well-being levels increased). This effect was driven by oscillatory activity in lower alpha frequencies (8–10.5 Hz), reinforcing the importance of dissociating sub-components of the alpha band when investigating alpha asymmetries. Age was correlated with both well-being and alpha asymmetry scores, but gender was not. Finally, EEG asymmetries in the other frequency bands were not associated with well-being, supporting the specific role of alpha asymmetries with the brain mechanisms underlying well-being levels. Interpretations, limitations, and recommendations for future studies are discussed. This paper presents novel methodological, experimental, and theoretical findings that help advance human neurophysiological monitoring techniques using wearable neurotechnologies and increase the feasibility of their implementation into real-world applications.