This electrode can be worn comfortably and stable for up to four weeks. (Credit: University of Texas at Austin)

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed an electroencefalography (EEG) electrode that patients wear on their head to monitor brain activity. The EEG electrodes system could act as a brain-computer interface (BCI), which can be controlled by brain signals to help repair damage to the brain caused by strokes and other disorders.

The electrode can be worn comfortably and stable for up to four weeks, without the potential need for any medical personnel to intervene to maintain it. This is a big improvement on currently available electrodes that typically need to be replaced every few hours or days at best.

The new electrode has the benefits of a wet, gel-based electrode, and eliminates major drawbacks, such as their tendency to dry out and then fall off. The project builds on a promising solution in early research phases that involves using conductive polymers as the basis for the electrodes.

The researchers used conductive polymers together with polymers with high water content. That allows them to take advantage of the benefits of gel-based materials, primarily that they can give accurate recordings despite interference caused by the skin and hair, a concept known as electrode-skin impedance.

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