Wearable electroencephalograms (EEGs) aren’t new, but most portable brainwave recording devices to date have focused on helping wearers improve relaxation, mindfulness, or sleep quality while sitting or lying down. Interaxon’s Muse may be the best-known portable EEG. We wrote about the original Muse headband in 2014 and continue to cover further Muse device developments and applications.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have developed a performance-focused wearable EEG designed for use during daily life. The Penn device monitors brain activity while wearers play sports, work, study, and engage with other people.

The Penn wearable EEG’s sensors consists of a combination of silver and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a commonly used silicone material. The PDMS stretches and bends to stay in contact with the skin and the silver adds sensitive conductivity. The team designed the sensor to be worn in headgear such as helmets, hats, headbands, or head wraps. The PDMS ability to conform to the head eliminates the need for messy sensor gels.

The Penn team envisions using the wearable EEG for seizure monitoring, tracking emotional peaks and valleys in mental health applications, and in a wide range of non-health-related purposes. For example, the researchers have used the technology to measure stress during athletic practices and wearer engagement while attending trade shows. Testing in UPenn labs showed approximately 84% accuracy identifying wearer anxiety when combining the EEG data with heart rate variability and skin conductance metrics.

UPenn’s portable EEG technology is still in development. The researchers foresee a time when consumers will be able to buy wearables with continuous EEG sensor technology that help them understand their brainwaves to gain insights into what works and doesn’t work in their lives.