In order for EEGer to provide effective neurofeedback training, it must be able to communicate with the EEG amplifier hundreds of times per second. If this incoming stream of data is interrupted or falls out of sync, it could cause the amplifier to stop communicating with EEGer and produce an error.

Because of this, EEG Store recommends the following steps be taken to reduce possible issues between the amplifier and the computer sending the incoming data to EEGer.

Avoid External Hubs & USB Extenders

It is always recommended to plug EEG amplifiers directly into the computer. This ensures the ‘shortest distance’ between the amplifier sending the signal to the computer and it being received by EEGer. Adding additional devices between the amplifier and the computer can often lead to the incoming stream of data to be delayed or fall out of sync, or to not reach EEGer at all.

External USB Hubs or USB Extenders come in both powered and unpowered models. While this has improved in recent years, there is a lack of standardization and quality among many external hubs. Amplifiers that receive power from the computer via USB may not be able to receive enough power when connected to these devices. We have also encountered situations where the computer has been unable to assign a COM Port when needed, or where devices connected to hubs were unable to interact with their device drivers.

Avoid Docking Stations & External USB Ports

The same issues that are encountered with external USB hubs are also common when using external docking station, including connecting amplifiers to the USB ports found on external monitors or external keyboards.

Generally, it is okay to connect other devices to external hubs or docking stations, such as keyboards and mice. This is because they interact with the computer less often, require less power, and use generic drivers.

Efficient Use of Available USB Ports

If an external hub must be used, it is recommended to connect these devices (even the EEGer Security Dongle) before connecting an EEG Amplifier. Most laptops and computers have a minimum of two USB ports, which would allow one port to be used for an external hub while the other is used for the amplifier.

Note: For desktop computers, additional USB ports may be present on the back of the computer case. For laptops, USB ports may be present on both sides of the laptop.

Batteries & Power

Most modern amplifiers receive their power directly from the computer via USB, but some amplifiers use batteries to receive their power. Some amplifiers can even be used with an external power source and connect to a computer via Bluetooth.

Generally, it is recommended to avoid rechargeable batteries with EEG Amplifiers. It is possible for these batteries to quickly drain and cause damage, as well as provide the wrong amount of power to the device. This is especially true for older models of amplifiers, or older sets of rechargeable batteries.

Amplifiers that receive power from batteries can still experience problems if connected to a computer using an external hub. While they do not receive power from the computer, they still have to send data to the computer via USB. It is recommended to connect battery-powered amplifiers directly to the computer when possible.

Amplifier Cables

Most amplifiers use some form of USB 2.0 cable to connect to the computer. Even devices that send data via a fiber optic cable still have to send data via USB once it reaches the computer. Like USB Hubs, the quality of USB cables can vary widely, making it difficult to choose a cable. Generally, EEG Store recommends the following:

Trusted Brands: There are many low-cost options available online, but the quality and safety of these cables is not always known. We recommend choosing recognizable name brands when selecting a cable, with a good selection of reviews.

Length: Most USB cables will fall within the 6ft-10ft range, but it’s possible to get cables of only a few inches up to 15ft-30ft. While there are cables of these lengths that work well, they are generally of a lower quality than the more commonly purchased lengths and may fail sooner. Some users will purchase short or long cables to accommodate the unique space where they do training, so it is recommended to have a backup cable of the same length or at least a standard-length backup cable available.

Data Cables vs. Charging Cables: Some amplifiers use generic cables, meaning they are used by a wide variety of devices. While this makes the cables easy to obtain and available at a lower cost, it also means there’s less standardization when it comes to their quality. Not all of these cables are created equally — some are unable to send data quickly enough for training, and others are unable to provide adequate power at the same time. We recommend purchasing cables that are labelled as ‘Data’ or ‘Transfer’ cables, which generally have higher build quality and transmission speeds. Note that USB 2.0 cables are what are used by most amplifiers, not USB 3.0 or USB C.

ESD Events & Avoiding Damage to Internal Components

Some amplifiers are sensitive to static discharge, or ESD events, which can overwhelm and damage internal components of the amplifier. Most modern devices have sufficient protections to avoid this type of damage to the amplifier, but in rare cases it can still occur. Some measures that manufacturers have recommended or that end-users have taken to avoid these include:

  • Keeping relative humidity levels to 40% to 60% to avoid excessive dryness or humidity, which can increase the likelihood of ESD events or otherwise damage sensitive components.
  • Using special mats, cushions, or wristbands designed to ground an individual, reducing the likelihood of ESD events.
  • Discharging built-up static before interacting with EEG amplifiers or applying and adjusting electrodes.
  • Avoiding blankets, furniture, or other materials that can cause a build-up of static.
  • Disconnecting or powering down EEG amplifiers while not in use.
  • Connecting computers or laptops to surge protectors or power backup devices.
  • Avoiding use of external USB hubs or docking stations.
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