What to expect when you visit the lab: Brain Wave Study

If you are coming in for a brain wave (event-related potential, or ERP) visit, this is what you should expect when coming to our lab in Montgomery Hall on the University of North Dakota (UND) campus.

We schedule appointments at your convenience. We are available for after school/early evening and weekend appointments, as well as standard 9-5 appointments. Please keep in mind that parking at UND can be challenging. Please plan ahead so that you have plenty of time to find a parking space.

A few days before your visit, you will receive an envelope in the mail that includes the date and time of your appointment, a case history form, a campus map, and a parking permit. Please complete your child's case history form and bring it with you to your appointment.

When we get to the lab and before we get started, you will be asked to sign a consent form<. Then we will first do a quick (10 minute) speech production assessment so that we have some measure of your child's speech ability.

Then we would start the brain wave study. This will involve putting a stretchy hat (similar to a swim cap) on your child's head.

The hat has special holes where electrodes will attach to the hat.

We will need to apply a small amount of water-soluble conductive gel (essentially ultrasound gel) in each of those holes. We put the gel into the hat with a squirt gun (i.e., a syringe) that will not poke or harm your child.

We also put an electrode behind each of your child's ears. They are attached with stickers that feel a bit like a Band-Aid.

Typically, it takes 15-20 minutes to put the hat on and get things set-up. While we are putting the hat on, your child can watch a movie and eat a snack if that is OK with you.

Once everything is ready to go, your child will complete one or more tasks. These tasks could include naming pictures or identifying whether pictures and words match. One task that most children complete is a speech perception task. This task would involve your child watching a DVD of his/her choice (with the sound turned off) or playing on an iPad while we would present speech syllables, such as 'ba' and 'da', through some speakers. Essentially, we tell children to just watch their movie/play their games and not pay any attention to the sounds, and children are surprisingly good at ignoring the sounds. We would continue this task for as long as your child is willing to sit, though the entire visit will never last longer than 2 hours.

During the session, we will take breaks so that your child can get little prizes and snacks, take pictures in the hat, etc. We try to make the session as fun as possible.

Ideally, we would like your child to sit through the tasks for the entire 2 hours. But, we will definitely stop as soon as we notice that he/she is no longer enjoying the task. Parents are welcome to stay through the entire session, or you can leave and we can give you a call when we're done - that's up to you.

Your child will be paid $25/hour to wear the hat, so he/she should receive $50 for this brain wave session.

And, if your child enjoys the brain wave task and is interested in doing other activities and earning more money, we do have additional research opportunities available. One additional research session typically involves having children complete a variety of standardized speech and language assessments; if you would like, we can provide a brief report of your child's performance on these measures.

Here's a video describing the entire ERP process