EEG and mobile technology to Monitor Horse Brain Activity in the Field –

In their study, Cousillas and his fellow researchers combined EEG and mobile technology to create a novel device that horses can wear on their heads. The “cap” is comfortable for the horses to wear and doesn’t restrict movement. The electrodes are designed to fall into the correct place on the head when a scientist places the cap on the horse’s head.

“EEG readings are sometimes used in clinical settings already, but we find them essentially in conditions where the horse is already immobilized, so a wired system works fine,” he said. “But if we have to immobilize the horse on purpose just to get an EEG reading, then we’re automatically interfering with any results we hope to obtain. And that causes significant limitations for field settings, obviously. But our group is known for its work in ethology in a field setting, so having a noninvasive mobile device that measures brain activity in a free horse became a real need for our research.”

Their novel device places five electrodes on the horse’s forehead over the parietal and frontal bones. Made with large rubber bands, it permits stable electrode contact with the skin and is adjustable for different head sizes, said the researchers.

Bypassing Bluetooth technology for this device, the researchers used an EEG amplifier to emit radio waves from the cap to an FM radio wave receiver. Wireless real-time data streamed directly into a computer connected to the FM receiver for analysis.

The research team tested the device on five riding horses from the French national equitation school in Saumur. They recorded EEG readings on the horses for 15 minutes each once a day for two days. In this primary experiment, the horses stood standing quietly during this time.

The scientists compared their EEG data with behavioral observations from the video recordings of the EEG recording sessions. They also compared the data to those obtained from previous EEG recordings of other horses using standard EEG equipment.

They found that their mobile system provided data consistent with data obtained for horses using a fixed system, Cousillas said. He said they also noted remarkable correlations between the horses’ behaviors and their EEG readings, indicating the system was reliable.

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