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The 11th International Scientific Conference

eLearning and Software for Education


Bucharest, April 23-24, 2015
10.12753/2066-026X-15-085

HE ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING EMOTIONAL STATE USING EEG HEADSETS

Florina UNGUREANU, Robert Gabriel LUPU


Department of Computer Science, Technical University of Iasi, D. Mangeron 27, Iasi, Romania
fungurea@cs.tuiasi.ro, robert@cs.tuiasi.ro

Abstract: In the last decade, the interest in the development of tools and devices for recognizing human
emotions in learning process has increased continuously. It was proved that the electrical brain activity
using electroencephalography (EEG) represents a useful methodological tool in understanding cortical
processes that underlie performance and students' engagement in learning activities. Specific emotional
states, like mental stress, concentration, relaxation, fatigue, and cognitive increase activation in Delta
(0.5-4 Hz), Theta (4-7 Hz), Alpha 1 and 2 (8-12 Hz), Beta 1 and 2 (12-30 Hz), Gamma (30-70 Hz)
frequencies. For example, the increase of frontal Beta-1 spectral power is associated with cognitive
tasks demands and the decrease of Beta-1 power values reflects relaxation. Alpha is the dominant
frequency in the human EEG and is generated in widespread areas of the cortex through cortico-
cortical and thalamo-cortical interactions reflecting emotions. The EEG-based Brain Computer
Interface (BCI) systems have been widely studied in different medical labs with high quality EEG
recording devices which are much too expensive and need special employment. As an alternative to
these professional equipment, several low-cost EEG devices were developed for out of the lab
applications e.g. schools, universities, sports medicine, psychology or even neurophysiology. Two
pertinent and detailed studies developed at Princeton University
(http://compmem.princeton.edu/experimenter) and University of Mons (www.biomedical-engineering-
online.com/content/12/1/56) reveal that the Emotiv Epoc headset could be taken into account. This low-
cost EEG device has higher relative operational and maintenance costs than its medical-grade
competitor, it "is able to record EEG data in a satisfying manner" but it should only be chosen for non
critical applications such as games, communication or feedback evaluation in a well-known scenarios.
Our study aims to use the Emotiv headset for evaluating the students' emotional state in learning
process. For this goal, some steps were completed: EEG data acquisition and analysis. The headset
connects wirelessly to any PC via a USB dongle allowing freedom of movement, has 14
channels/sensors and the data sample rate is 128Hz. Due to the problem of eye/head movements
automatic artefact detection must be completed and only artefact-free segments must be used for
analysis. A good option is to use the Matlab toolbox EEGLAB, freely available open source research
software (http://sccn.ucsd.edu/eeglab) and the Independent Component Analysis (ICA) method for
general EEG analysis and artifacting. Spectral power for each frequency band is computed and used
for statistical analysis. Statistical analysis. Mean values and standard deviation could be calculated and
relevant statistical values tests (Kolmogorov-Smirnov, ANOVA or Mauchley) have to be performed for
different learning status, like reading a very simple text or a very difficult one, discussion on a subject,
playing a game, programming under time restrictions. The obtained row data of the acquired signal
should be compared with those provided by MIT-BIH Database Distribution (http://ecg.mit.edu/).
Based on this EEG feedback approach, some conclusions can be formulated regarding students'
implication in learning or the difficulty of the teaching materials.

Keywords: brain- computer interface; emotional state; EEG headset; affective learning; valence -
arousal model; classification.

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I. INTRODUCTION

Brain-computer interface (BCI) is a communication system that enables the direct


communication between humans and computers through decoding of brain activity based on the
measurement of the currents produced in brain by the electrical activity of neurons [1, 2]. The
electroencephalography (EEG) is a nonintrusive method for recording the voltage of these currents at
the scalp level. An array of electrodes attached to the scalp is used to detect electrical activity
produced by neurons reflecting brain activity. The resulting waveforms can be used to diagnose the
abnormal brain conditions, or to study the neurological activity following specific stimuli or under
specific conditions [3]. At present BCIs analyse brain signals in real-time communicate with or to
control external devices, facilitate rehabilitation or restore functions. If in 2000s, there were no more
than 5 groups activating in BCI research, in 2014 over 300 laboratories were focused on this area [4].
In the last two decades, the interest in the development of tools and devices for recognizing
human emotions in learning process has increased continuously. It was proved that the electrical brain
activity using EEG represents a useful methodological tool in understanding cortical processes that
underlines performance and students engagement in learning activities [5, 6]. Specific emotional
states, like mental stress, concentration, relaxation, fatigue, and cognitive increase activation in
different frequency bands from the overall EEG power spectrum: delta (0.5-4 Hz), theta (4-7 Hz),
alpha 1 and 2 (8-12 Hz), beta 1 and 2 (12-30 Hz), and gamma (30-70 Hz). For example, the increase of
frontal Beta-1 spectral power is associated with cognitive tasks demands and the decrease of Beta-1
power values reflects relaxation. Alpha is the dominant frequency in the human EEG and is generated
in widespread areas of the cortex reflecting emotions [7].
The EEG-based BCI systems have been widely studied in different medical labs with high
quality EEG recording devices, which are much too expensive and need special employment. As an
alternative to these professional equipment, several low-cost EEG devices were developed for out of
the lab applications e.g. schools, universities, sports medicine, psychology or even neurophysiology.
Among many studies on low-cost EEG devices, it deserves to underline two pertinent and detailed
studies developed at Princeton University [3] and University of Mons [8], which reveal that the
Emotiv Epoc headset could be taken into account. This low-cost EEG device has higher relative
operational and maintenance costs than its medical-grade competitor, it is able to record EEG data in
a satisfying manner but it should only be chosen for non-critical applications such as games,
communication or feedback evaluation in a well-known scenarios [3, 8, 9].
Our study aims to use the Emotiv headset for evaluating the students emotional state in
learning process, for some different cases: reading an easy or difficult technical text, solving
programming exercises, viewing tutorials, writing nice or unpleasant e-mails and so on. To succeed in
our approach, some steps were completed: the design of the experimental scenario, EEG data
acquisition and analysis, statistical analysis and classification and the assessment of the emotional
state. Based on this EEG feedback, important conclusions can be formulated regarding students
implication in learning or the difficulty of the teaching materials in classic or e-learning systems.

II. DATA ACQUISITION WITH EMOTIV EPOC HEADSET


In BCI domain, the EEG measurement technique is established by the International Federation
of Clinical Neurophysiology (IFCN) that contributed at standardization of electrode placement and
nomenclature. The International 10/20 System for Electrode Placement is presented in Figure 1, with
128 electrodes, where C central, F frontal, O occipital, P parietal, T temporal, odd/even
number left/right hemisphere, and z middle [10].

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Figure 1. The 10-20 system with 128 electrodes Figure 2. The Emotive Epoc headset with 14
placement [10] electrodes placement
Some important companies provide professional EEG systems with 128 electrodes, certified
according to the Medical Device Directive 93/42/EEC, dedicated both to medical and research
purpose, but their prices are very high. For example, the ANT acquisition system (Advanced Neuro
Technology, www.ant-neuro.com/products/) is 128 electrodes EEG for which the hardware and
software overall cost is around 30,00050,000$, Enobio 32 channels wireless
(www.neuroelectrics.com/products/enobio) is about 20,000 , DSI 24 (wearablesensing.com) has a
price of 40.000 $ and Brain Products (www.brainproducts.com) provides an EEG system with 16
electrodes for over 6,000 . Obviously, all these equipment with very good technical specifications are
not affordable for patients personal use outside laboratory.
As an alternative, the Epoc Emotiv headset aims to bring EEG facilities to the masses, with a
price of 750 $, including research SDK access. Much more, the headset is wireless, the sensor-array is
relatively easy to fix and use and the electrodes need to be wet with contact lens solution instead of gel
or paste [11]. The user has a good range of motion because the device connects wirelessly to a PC via
a USB dongle. Its attractive price brought it to the researchers attention although obviously the
headset performance could not be high and it was necessary to clarify its applications. Duvinage et al.
[8, 9] and Adelson [3] pointed out strong and weak points of the Epoc device. First of all, the headset
has only 14 channels arranged according to 10-20 standard, as shown in Figure 2, less than 1/4 the
number used in many research scenarios. The sample rate is 128Hz, much lower than 1000Hz that is
usual in research studies. On the other hand, it is user friendly, the standard SDK allows access to the
raw EEG data stream (figure 3) and the Emotiv APIs consist of three event-based classification
suites [12]. The ExpressivTM suite tries to detect the wearers facial expression, the AffectivTM
suite tries to detect the wearers mood, and the CognitivTM suite tries to detect occurrences of user-
defined cognitive events (figure 4).

Figure 3. EEG data stream for Epoc Emotive

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Figure 4. Emotiv APIs affective suite
In EEG measurements, two categories of artefacts can be distinguished: biological and
technical. The technical artefacts are caused by the EEG recording device and the biological artifacts
are caused by the subjects muscular activities (eye/head movements) which are much stronger than
the EEG signals or by the contact between skin and electrodes. Sometimes, artefacts can hardly be
distinguished from the EEG signals and automatic artefact detection techniques must be completed
and only artefact-free segments must be used for analysis. A good option is to use the Matlab toolbox
EEGLAB, freely available open source research software [13, 14] and the Independent Component
Analysis (ICA) method for general EEG analysis and artefacting. Spectral power for each frequency
band is computed and used for statistical analysis. Another option is to use OpenVibe an open source
platform, initial made and actually hosted by INRIA Laboratory [15, 16]. OpenVibe includes drivers
for many EEG devices, offers the possibility to extend its facilities by developing new functions in
C++ and it is free and offers the possibility to offer a cheap BCI solution to end-user.
The Epoc headset was used with good results in sport medicine research studies [2, 7], in mind
reading approaches [3] but it is not recommended for medical applications like rehabilitation [9]. Until
now, this device has not been involved in learning activities assessment as others were used [5, 6, 17].

III. DATA ANALYSIS AND EMOTIONAL STATE EVALUATION


It was demonstrated that well-defined regions of human brain are highly related to emotions:
sadness - left temporal areas; sadness, happiness and disgust - right prefrontal cortex area, anger - right
frontal cortex activation; fear - bilateral temporal activation; sadness and happiness - most of the brain
regions and eventually all emotions are correlated with prefrontal cortex, cingulate gyrus or temporal
cortex [18]. It was proven that most of the activation for emotions emerges in right hemisphere
corresponding to different time-segments of EEG signals, but the left hemisphere also has a significant
role in activation of emotions. Advanced medical researches reveal that brain might be partly or
entirely engaged to emotional processing during emotions like sadness, anger, happiness, disgust and
fear. It has been noticed that the different brain regions are activated during emotion processing in a
well-defined and specific dynamic process, and that both right and left hemispheres are involved in
different classes of emotions [18]. The neurologic and philological experimental tests highlighted that
the left frontal region is an important centre for self-regulation, motivation and planning. Also, the
right anterior region contributes to high activation of right frontal and anterior temporal regions during
arousal emotional states like fear and disgust. The participation/commitment is sustained by the left
hemisphere and withdrawal by the right hemisphere. Bajaj and Pachori present a good state of the art
[18] on studies regarding correlations between emotional states and EEG signals analysed in the five
main frequency bands (delta, theta, alpha 1 and 2, beta 1 and 2, and gamma).
In many research projects, it has been noticed that there is less alpha power in right frontal
regions for disgust than that for happiness while happiness caused less alpha power in the left frontal

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region than that of disgust. The human perception of reward and punishment is reflected by the
asymmetries of EEG signals for the two hemispheres. The reward is associated with less alpha power
in the left mid and lateral frontal regions and punishment has association with less alpha power in right
mid and lateral frontal regions of the brain. Another conclusion is that alpha power over the left
hemisphere increases in happy conditions in comparison to negative emotional conditions. Theta is
associated with inefficiency and daydreaming and consequently the very lowest theta waves represent
the limit between being awake or in a sleep. Beta is the brain wave associated with active thinking,
active attention, and focus on the outside world or solving concrete problems. A low power spectrum
in beta range denotes relaxation. It is seen usually on both sides in a symmetrical distribution and it is
most evident frontally. The gamma band reflects the mechanism of consciousness, being associated
with the formation of ideas, language and memory processing, and various types of learning. The
emotions should be induced by using visual and auditory stimuli. In the literature, there are defined up
to twenty basic emotions and most of the theories suggest that each emotion reflects a particular
motivational tendency and behavior. The basic emotions are: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise,
curiosity, acceptance, and joy. Most of the methods developed in the literature for neuropsychological
studies have reported the correlations between EEG signals and emotional states. These methods have
been based on time-domain analysis and frequency-domain analysis.

Figure 5. Valence-Arousal model Figure 6. Beta wave from F3 electrode: easy () and difficult
(--,) problem
In many research studies, the valence-arousal dimensional model, represented in figure 5, is
used to characterize the emotions. The valence means the degree of attraction or aversion that an
individual feels toward a specific object or event. The arousal is a physiological and psychological
state of being awake or reactive to stimuli, ranging from passive to active [19].
Our study started by using AffectivTM suite provided by Emotive (figure 4) and the
importance of the electrodes position and contact on the signals quality was observed. The obtained
records were in concordance with subjects mood but were affected by artefacts. This API do not
satisfy the goal to create a database for training and classification methods [20, 21] or future
processing. So, for signal acquisition and processing an OpenVibe application was developed.
In our approach, the use of visual and auditory stimuli for evaluating students mood was
not appropriate like in others studies. The experimental tests consisted in EEG signals acquisition from
volunteers involved in different activities: reading a joyful text, implementing easy and very difficult
algorithms, viewing a tutorial, writing emails, etc. Most test sessions last one hour and signals from
carefully selected electrodes were acquired at different time intervals revealing students implication
in process learning. Because the sampling rate is only 128Hz the accurate acquisition for gamma band
(32 60 Hz) is not possible. This is a drawback of Epoc headset because gamma is correlated with
some types of learning, as presented above. The study was focused on alpha and beta waves.
In order to remove artefacts, the ICA algorithm is used. Then, EEG power spectrum in each
frequency at each electrode location is calculated. For the statistical analyses, a logarithmic
transformation of the power values is used to stabilize the variances. Mean values and standard
deviation are calculated and relevant statistical values are computed for different learning status.
The tests regarding students mood during implementing algorithms with varying degrees of
difficulty, under time restriction, is relevant. For all students, an increase in amplitude of beta wave (5
30 V) was observed in the case of difficult problems, as shown in figure 6. Amplitude increased
with time and students stress. The decrease in amplitude was evident immediately after finishing the

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task. The same conclusion emerges from power spectrum analyses. It is interesting that for beta band,
the waves from F3 and F4 electrodes, AF3 and AF4, or F7 and F8 are very similar, denoting the same
activity in both hemispheres. This is a good point in case that one electrode from these pairs is failing.
It is possible not to have a good contact for each electrode in time. According to the level of
knowledge of each student the beta wave amplitude increases faster or slower. The statistical analyses
reflect a difference of 10% in power spectrum between very good and poor students.
Analysing the waves in alpha band (30 50 V), it could be observed an increase in the waves
from F3, F7 and FC5 electrodes for the students who succeeded to finish the problems just in time,
reflecting their happiness. A sign of frustration could be linked with a small power spectrum for the
waves acquired from F4, FC6 and F8 electrodes. But the obtained results are inconsistent and the
dispersion is rather high. Also, there was noticed an important modification in theta waves especially
at the end of the test sessions but more experiments are needed to draw a pertinent conclusion.
The studies we had performed revealed that the features of Epoc headset are limited and do
not allow its usage in medical applications. The low acquisition frequency and the number of
electrodes are the main drawbacks. But the approach is the same in terms of signal acquisition
and the development of specific software applications using OpenVibe platform.

IV. CONCLUSIONS
This paper explores the capability and performance of Emotiv Epoc headset for evaluation the
students emotive state in learning activities. This EEG device is attractive due to its price, mobility
and usability. But, it has only 14 electrodes, no one in the middle and a sampling rate of only 128Hz.
Our tests pointed out that for emotional state evaluation, the sampling rate do not allow high accuracy
acquisition for gamma band which is correlated with various types of learning. We agree with
Duvinages opinion [8] that the design of a low-cost EEG recording system for professional
applications is still required. Anyone can use AffectivTM suite from Emotiv Control Panel in order to
detect the users mood in a certain scenario, but this do not offer the possibility to store and process
the data rows at a higher level, including extended feature extraction and classification techniques. In
our tests we used OpenVibe open source software platform dedicated to designing, testing and using
BCI. Thus, our proposed solution is really low-cost, affordable to end-user.
EEG signals were acquired from volunteers involved in different activities: reading a joyful
text, implementing easy and very difficult algorithms, viewing a tutorial, etc. The alpha and beta
waves were analysed: for all students, an increase in amplitude and power spectrum of beta band was
observed for difficult problems and decrease was evident immediately after finishing the task. The
happiness and frustration in concordance with success or failure in algorithm implementation were
reflected in alpha power spectrum. In our study, statistical analysis was used to classify the results.
It can be concluded that Epoc headset and OpenVibe could be a good option to perform the
assessment of students emotional state in learning activities. Many volunteers must be involved in a
large number of tests in order to perform EEG-based emotion recognition using artificial intelligence
techniques [20, 21, 22] or P300 paradigm [8], with a high confidence.

Acknowledgements
This work is supported by the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research (UEFISCDI),
Project Virtual Therapist with Augmented Feedback for Neuromotor Recovery (TRAVEE) PN-II-
PT-PCCA-2013-4-1580 and by the H2020-PHC-2014 Project 643636 (SoundOfVision).

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