The ABCs of EEGs

By Lisa Marinelli Smith
NeuLine Health

Electroencephalograms, or EEGs, give us critical information about how our brain works by tracking its electrical activity and providing doctors with insights into conditions like epilepsy, dementia and sleep disorders. 

Electrical activity in the brain begins when neurons communicate with each other. Researchers estimate the brain has 86 billion neurons, which transmit information to other nerve cells, muscle or gland cells. 

When thousands of neurons fire simultaneously, they create an electrical field strong enough to measure through tissue, bone and the skull. By recording the brain’s electrical activity with an EEG, neurologists can determine if the brain is functioning normally. Irregular brain activity can signal a health problem.

How does an EEG work?

Technicians apply electrodes to the scalp, forehead and temples. Electrodes are attached to wires that feed into an amplifier, which digitizes the data into images. The feedback with its wavy lines resembles a seismograph used to measure earthquakes.

EEGs are noninvasive, painless and safe. You won’t feel shocks from the electrodes. EEGs don’t send electricity to your brain or measure thoughts and feelings. 

Some people must check into an epilepsy monitoring unit at a hospital or clinic for several days for EEGs to monitor their brain activity. With at-home ambulatory EEGs through NeuLine Health, many people can, instead, stay in the comfort of their homes for the test. 

Our compact equipment sets up neatly at a patient’s home. Patients wear a pouch that contains a small device where the electrode wires gather, allowing the patient to move freely. EEG techs set up a video camera for additional monitoring, usually in the bedroom.

NeuLine tests generally last 72 hours, and patients can conduct many normal activities from home. They should not exert themselves enough to get sweaty, which could move the electrodes. They also must stay in front of the video camera as much as possible, including while sleeping. 

Once the test is over, a technician will return to your home to remove electrodes and gather the equipment. Data about the brain waves are uploaded, and a technician reviews it to “prune” or pull out the most valuable pieces of information for a neurologist to analyze.

What does a neurologist learn from an EEG?

A neurologist looks for any irregular brain activity, which can be used to diagnose and study conditions, such as: 

  • A head injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Chronic headaches 
  • Dementia
  • Dizziness
  • Epilepsy
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stroke

If brain electrical activity is normal, neurologists can rule out conditions and health care providers can begin to look for another reason for a certain condition. 

For example, many people experience what’s known as a nonepileptic seizure. Their seizure resembles an epileptic seizure, but it isn’t caused by irregular electrical brain activity. So, by definition, it’s not an epileptic seizure. Instead, other medical conditions, such as an infection, brain injury or psychological distress, can lead to a nonepileptic seizure. 
For more information about our at-home, ambulatory EEGs, call NeuLine Health at (844) 212-5321 or visit our website.

Resources

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Four Types of EEGs

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