When it comes to critical medical procedures, electroencephalography (EEG) tends to come up in nearly every conversation. It has been around since the early 1900s, and now one of the most common ways to monitor the brain’s activity. In fact, thousands of people undergo this procedure on a daily basis as the means of finding underlying conditions. So, what exactly is it and how do doctors perform it?
Electroencephalography was invented to monitor the brain’s electrical activity. The way it is performed is based on electrodes that are placed on someone’s head before being activated to scan their brain. Meaning, it is a non-invasive procedure. The electricity is brought into the equation by introducing voltage and looking for fluctuations of ionic current that comes in touch with the neurons.
There are many reasons why doctors resort to utilizing EEG, and some of the most common ones include the following:
- Diagnosing Epilepsy and the seriousness of it;
- Uncovering sleep disorders that the patient may or may not be aware of;
- Analyze conditions like long-term comas, medically-induced comas, and other conditions like cerebral electrical inactivity
Also, according to an EEG technologist, Gina Marta, electroencephalography used to carry a crucial role in uncovering brain tumors. That use of it, however, has taken a backseat to MRIs as they are now the primary way to scan and see inside of the human body.
The History of Electroencephalograph
The first EEG that was ever reported took place in 1912 when a Ukrainian physiologist Vladimir Pravdich-Neminsky exposed an animal to the electrodes used for the test. Although many others soon followed suit, he is considered to be the first person to conduct the procedure and obtain note-worthy results successfully.
In 1924, Hans Berger, a German psychiatrist, invented electroencephalography, a new method of recording brain waves.
In 1950, William Walter improved the state of this branch of medicine by creating something known as the EEG topography. For those unfamiliar, this is a map of the brain’s electrical activity that helps people understand what goes on inside of someone’s head. Thanks to him, individuals relying on EEGs for diagnosis purposes have a blueprint as well as a tangible frame of reference. Thus, any variations from the normal EEG topography helps reveal underlying conditions.
Ultimately, time facilitated medical innovation the likes of which were seldom anticipated. For instance, one of the latest experiments involving EEGs includes thought-sharing ventures where multiple people’s brains were connected.
What the Patient Should Expect
Being nervous before an EEG is entirely normal. In fact, Gina Marta recognizes that everyone will feel some level of anxiety. After all, having an electrode placed on one’s scalp in anticipation of voltage interacting with the brain’s neurons can be quite nerve-wracking. Nevertheless, what exactly should a prospective patient expect when dealing with this procedure for the first time?
One of the first things that will take place in the measurement stage where a technologist uses a specific measurement called the 10/20 System is to measure the exact areas for electrode placement. The electrodes are strategically placed on their scalp. Afterward, very little will happen regarding what the patient can detect. Since the electrodes interact through electric waves, it is extremely unlikely that the patient will be aware of anything happening.
As far as some common practices that people should be aware of, it is important to stay away from any products that go on someone’s hair or scalp. For example, putting gel or hair conditioners right before an EEG is not a good idea. The reason why is quite simple as doing so makes it harder for the electrodes to stick. Thus, eliminating hair chemicals and expecting practically no sensation is a good way to prepare for what takes place before an EEG!