EEG (electroencephalogram)Test

Overview

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain using small, metal discs (electrodes) attached to your scalp. Your brain cells communicate via electrical impulses and are active all the time, even when you’re asleep. This activity shows up as wavy lines on an EEG recording.

An EEG is one of the main diagnostic tests for epilepsy. An EEG can also play a role in diagnosing other brain disorders.

Why it’s done

An EEG can determine changes in brain activity that might be useful in diagnosing brain disorders, especially epilepsy or another seizure disorder. An EEG might also be helpful for diagnosing or treating the following disorders:

  • Brain tumor
  • Brain damage from head injury
  • Brain dysfunction that can have a variety of causes (encephalopathy)
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
  • Stroke
  • Sleep disorders

An EEG might also be used to confirm brain death in someone in a persistent coma. A continuous EEG is used to help find the right level of anesthesia for someone in a medically induced coma.

Risks

EEGs are safe and painless. Sometimes seizures are intentionally triggered in people with epilepsy during the test, but appropriate medical care is provided if needed.

How you prepare

Food and medications

  • Avoid anything with caffeine on the day of the test because it can affect the test results.
  • Take your usual medications unless instructed otherwise.

Other precautions

  • Wash your hair the night before or the day of the test, but don’t use conditioners, hair creams, sprays or styling gels. Hair products can make it harder for the sticky patches that hold the electrodes to adhere to your scalp.
  • If you’re supposed to sleep during your EEG test, your doctor might ask you to sleep less or avoid sleep the night before your test.

What you can expect

During the test

EEG electrodesEEG electrodesOpen pop-up dialog box

You’ll feel little or no discomfort during an EEG. The electrodes don’t transmit any sensations. They just record your brain waves.

Here are some things you can expect to happen during an EEG:

  • A technician measures your head and marks your scalp with a special pencil to indicate where to attach the electrodes. Those spots on your scalp might be scrubbed with a gritty cream to improve the quality of the recording.
  • A technician attaches discs (electrodes) to your scalp using a special adhesive. Sometimes, an elastic cap fitted with electrodes is used instead. The electrodes are connected with wires to an instrument that amplifies the brain waves and records them on computer equipment.Once the electrodes are in place, an EEG typically takes up to 60 minutes. Testing for certain conditions require you to sleep during the test. In that case, the test can be longer.
  • You relax in a comfortable position with your eyes closed during the test. At various times, the technician might ask you to open and close your eyes, perform a few simple calculations, read a paragraph, look at a picture, breathe deeply for a few minutes, or look at a flashing light.
  • Video is routinely recorded during the EEG. Your body motions are captured by a video camera while the EEG records your brain waves. This combined recording can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition.

Ambulatory EEGs (aEEGs), which allow for longer monitoring outside an office or hospital setting, are in limited use. This test can record brain activity over several days, which increases the chances of catching seizure activity. However, compared to inpatient video-EEG monitoring, an ambulatory EEG is not as good at determining the difference between epileptic seizures and nonepileptic seizures.

After the test

The technician removes the electrodes or cap. If you had no sedative, you should feel no side effects after the procedure, and you can return to your normal routine.

If you used a sedative, it will take time for the medication to begin to wear off. Arrange to have someone drive you home. Once home, rest and don’t drive for the rest of the day.

Results

Doctors trained to analyze EEGs interpret the recording and send the results to the doctor who ordered the EEG. Your doctor might schedule an office appointment to discuss the results of the test.

If possible, bring along a family member or friend to the appointment to help you remember the information you’re given.

Write down questions to ask your doctor, such as:

  • Based on the results, what are my next steps?
  • What follow-up, if any, do I need?
  • Are there factors that might have affected the results of this test in some way?
  • Will I need to repeat the test?

What Is an EEG (Electroencephalogram)

An EEG, or electroencephalogram, is a test that records the electrical signals of the brain by using small metal discs (called electrodes) that are attached to your scalp. Your brain cells communicate with each other using electrical impulses. They’re always working, even if you’re asleep. That brain activity will show up on an EEG recording as wavy lines. It’s a snapshot in time of the electrical activity in your brain. 

EEG Uses

EEGs are used to diagnose conditions like:

  • Brain tumors
  • Brain damage from a head injury
  • Brain dysfunction from various causes (encephalopathy)
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
  • Seizure disorders including epilepsy
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stroke

An EEG may also be used to determine if someone in a coma has died or to find the right level of anesthesia for someone in a coma.

EEG Risks

EEGs are safe. If you have a medical condition, talk with the doctor about it before your test.

If you have a seizure disorder, there’s a slight risk that the flashing lights and deep breathing of the EEG could bring on a seizure. This is rare. A medical team will be on hand to treat you immediately if this happens.

In other cases, a doctor may trigger a seizure during the test to get a reading. Medical staff will be on hand so the situation is closely monitored.

Preparing for an EEG

There are some things you should do to prepare for EEG:

  • Don’t eat or drink anything with caffeine for 8 hours before the test.
  • Your doctor may give you instructions on how much to sleep if you’re expected to sleep during the EEG.
  • Eat normally the night before and day of the procedure. Low blood sugar could mean abnormal results.
  • Let your doctor know about any medications — both prescription and over-the-counter — and supplements you’re taking.
  • Wash your hair the night before the test. Don’t use any leave-in conditioning or styling products afterward. If you are wearing extensions that use glue, they should be removed.

Heart Disease

Heart disease includes conditions that narrow or block blood vessels (coronary heart disease). This can lead to a heart attack, angina and some strokes. Heart disease also covers conditions that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or cause abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias).

What are the symptoms of cardiovascular heart disease?

Symptoms of heart disease vary based on what condition you have and can include:

  • chest pain
  • pain, weakness or numb legs and/or arms
  • breathlessness
  • very fast or slow heartbeat, or palpitations
  • feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • fatigue
  • swollen limbs.

Flu jab

Anyone with a heart and circulatory condition is advised to have the flu jab annually.

What increases my risk of cardiovascular heart disease?

A risk factor is something that increases the chance of getting a condition. The more you have, the higher your chance of CVD. Even if you can’t change all your risk factors, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

There are several risk factors for CVD, including:

How is cardiovascular heart disease diagnosed?

Diagnosis of coronary heart disease depends on your symptoms and what condition your doctor thinks you may have.

Tests may be based on your family history and can include:

What is the treatment for cardiovascular heart disease?

Treatment will depend on your condition, but usually includes:

Neuropsychologist

What is a neuropsychologist?

A neuropsychologist is a psychologist who specializes in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and behavior. The brain is complex. Disorders within the brain and nervous system can alter behavior and cognitive function.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the role of a neuropsychologist is to understand how brain structures and systems relate to behavior and thinking.

Neuropsychologists have a doctorate in psychology and training in neuropsychology. They often work in research or clinical settings.

What does a neuropsychologist do?

Neuropsychologists evaluate and treat people with various types of nervous system disorders. They work closely with doctors, including neurologists.

Illnesses, injuries, and diseases of the brain and nervous system can affect the way a person feels, thinks, and behaves. Symptoms that may call for a neuropsychologist include:

  • memory difficulties
  • mood disturbances
  • learning difficulties
  • nervous system dysfunction

If other doctors can’t identify the cause of a symptom, a neuropsychologist can help determine a diagnosis. If a diagnosis is already known, an assessment can still be helpful.

A neuropsychologist can help determine what impairments you might have and how severe they are. The following are examples of conditions they evaluate and treat:

  • A stroke can affect behaviour, thinking, memory, and other brain functions in obvious or subtle ways. They can perform an evaluation to help determine the degree of stroke impairment.
  • Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder, can cause several neurological problems. A neuropsychologist’s exam can provide a baseline to help them determine disease progression and decreased function.
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can interfere with memory, personality, and cognitive abilities. A neuropsychologist can perform an exam to help them identify it in its early stage.
  • Traumatic brain injuries can cause a wide variety of symptoms. A neuropsychologist can help determine how an injury affects functions like reasoning or problem-solving skills.
  • A neuropsychologist can help determine which of the many types of learning disabilities someone has and develop a treatment plan.

Typical neuropsychological procedures

The nervous system is complex. Neuropsychologists use different types of procedures to identify problems and treatment plans. Typical procedures they perform include:

Neuropsychological evaluation

This evaluation is an assessment of how your brain functions. The evaluation will include an interview and questions that will help outline your performance of daily tasks, as well as identify memory issues and mental health concerns. The interview will also cover information on symptoms, medical history, and medications you take.

An evaluation includes different types of standardized tests to measure many areas of brain function, including:

  • memory
  • cognitive ability
  • personality
  • problem-solving
  • reasoning
  • emotions
  • personality

Brain scans, such as CT or MRI scans, can also help a neuropsychologist make a diagnosis.

Understanding results

Your neuropsychologist will compare your test results with those of other people with a similar education and age.

Evaluation and test results may help determine the cause of an issue when other methods don’t work. Tests can even help identify mild thinking and memory issues, which may be subtle.

Neuropsychologists help develop a treatment plan by understanding how the brain functions and how that functioning relates to behaviour. Treatment plans may include medication, rehabilitation therapy, or surgery.

Outlook

A neuropsychologist can help diagnose a cognitive, behavioral, or neurological condition. Seeing a neuropsychologist and completing their tests can lead to a deeper understanding of your condition. When other doctors might not be able to diagnose an issue, consider seeing a neuropsychologist.