Scalp electrode impedance, infection risk, and EEG data quality

Clin Neurophysiol. 2001 Mar;112(3):536-44. doi: 10.1016/s1388-2457(00)00533-2.


Objectives: Breaking the skin when applying scalp electroencephalographic (EEG) electrodes creates the risk of infection from blood-born pathogens such as HIV, Hepatitis-C, and Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease. Modern engineering principles suggest that excellent EEG signals can be collected with high scalp impedance ( approximately 40 kOmega) without scalp abrasion. The present study was designed to evaluate the effect of electrode-scalp impedance on EEG data quality.

Methods: The first section of the paper reviews electrophysiological recording with modern high input-impedance differential amplifiers and subject isolation, and explains how scalp-electrode impedance influences EEG signal amplitude and power line noise. The second section of the paper presents an experimental study of EEG data quality as a function of scalp-electrode impedance for the standard frequency bands in EEG and event-related potential (ERP) recordings and for 60 Hz noise.

Results: There was no significant amplitude change in any EEG frequency bands as scalp-electrode impedance increased from less than 10 kOmega (abraded skin) to 40 kOmega (intact skin). 60 Hz was nearly independent of impedance mismatch, suggesting that capacitively coupled noise appearing differentially across mismatched electrode impedances did not contribute substantially to the observed 60 Hz noise levels.

Conclusions: With modern high input-impedance amplifiers and accurate digital filters for power line noise, high-quality EEG can be recorded without skin abrasion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Artifacts
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / transmission
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Cross Infection / transmission
  • Electric Impedance
  • Electrodes / standards*
  • Electroencephalography* / instrumentation
  • Electroencephalography* / methods
  • Electroencephalography* / standards
  • Equipment Contamination
  • Equipment Design
  • Evoked Potentials
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis C / transmission
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Scalp / injuries*