I am doing a research project for school, and I'm trying to investigate the effectiveness of inhaling lavender oil in reducing anxiety.

I plan to measure the strength of alpha wave activities, as it seems to be commonly accepted as an index for the level of relaxation/anxiety. I may also measure the strength of gamma activity at the T3 location, for Oathes et al. have suggested that the increase in gamma power in that location is associated with worrying (https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.biopsycho.2008.04.005).

(That being said, I know very little about EEG research and will ask about the details of conducting one in another post because this post is about the equipment)

We are in a high school, though a fairly well-resourced one, so our budget isn't too big. Ideally, I would like to obtain a research-grade EEG headset plus the related equipment (e.g. A/D converter) under 1000 dollars, at most 2000 dollars.

So, what are some brands and models that might be suitable for my situation?



I think I might as well ask about the process of analyzing the raw signals here. I've done some searching online, and many people recommended using EEGLAB, a toolbox for MATLAB. So I plan to purchase a MATLAB student license and install the free toolbox. Is that a good idea? If so, do you have any recommendations for resources that I can use to learn about using this tool for data analysis?


2 Answers 2


EEG systems are quite expensive and are far out of the budget you have outlined. There are four points to be made on this matter:

  • The most basic "set" I could find produced by Biosemi costs $11,000 and this set doesn't include the caps and bands (electrodes) required for collecting data.
  • It is also important that the location of this system be in a soundproof and electromagnetic safe room to ensure there is little interference in data collection.
  • There is quite a lot of training required to properly conduct an EEG study and to test participants in a safe and ethical manner.
  • Analyzing raw EEG data is also not a simple feat. The level of statistics understanding and software knowledge required for this type of analysis is not usually obtained until graduate-level studies.

As an aside, I am not sure that the question you have is worth the resources needed to test via EEG. For high school level research it would be best to conduct a behavioural study to measure the effects of lavender oil inhalation on anxiety symptoms. There are many available behavioural measures of anxiety that have been tried and tested in the scientific community. It is standard practice to begin with behavioural measures before moving to physiological measures.

Please note, there is great value in replicating studies. The scientific community often feels pressured to produce novel findings, as new and exciting results may lead to fame and a bigger pay cheque. It is paramount to scientific progress to replicate previous findings as often times novel findings are never replicated and therefore never subjected to "fact checking" (and could therefore not be replicable in the first place, fluke findings do occur). Progress can only be made if we are constantly questioning what we think is right. It would be advisable for a high school level researcher to find a study related to the topic you are interested in and to replicate the methods used in that study in an attempt to find the same results as the original authors. Not only would this be more accessible to you at this level of education, but it will teach you valuable research skills and help improve your understanding of the questions you have.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much for your response! Hah hah, I do plan to incorporate behavioral measures as well, although my Independent Research class's teacher (a former biologist) really prefers physiological measures over the behavioral ones, and he doesn't want my experiment to be just a purely psychological one. The behavioral measure I plan to use is the shortened version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory created by Marteau and Bekker (as it can be found online for free). I'm also planning to use a GSR sensor to measure the participants' sympathetic activities. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2018 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, I actually got the idea of using an EEG from reading studies on L-Theanine and Lavender oil (my original research idea was about the effect of ingesting L-Theanine, but then my teacher told me that we can't make people ingest any substances, so I switched to the effect of inhaling lavender oil). $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2018 at 2:50

Lab grade EEG are outside of your budget, however there are available alternatives like Muse, Emotiv or the OpenBCI project which are affordable. With these headset you can get either the raw data or a summary of the signal. Muse software is also quite user friendly, see http://developer.choosemuse.com/tools/

Although the quality of the signal won't be as good as lab EEG headsets, there is some papers showing that the signal is decent and not just noise -as I thought when the came out-, eg. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2017.00109/full , https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/7133005

That being said, I agree with Shelby Howlett, trying to replicate a study is probably a great idea for this kind of project. It'd be very informative and a bit less of a headache to come up with the protocol and actually figuring out if you can get anxiety levels from the EEG signal.

Update for the edit:

I would strongly encourage you to go for an open source library instead of Matlab, it'd be better experience for learning some coding and it'll resonate more with the current Open Science spirit. There several available, the one I'm familiar with is: MNE, https://github.com/mne-tools/mne-python

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! By the way, have you ever heard of OpenBCI? Their headset can be a lot cheaper if we print it ourselves with a 3D printer, and we do have one at school. Although, I don't know how reliable is their signal. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2018 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ I actually started with searching previous studies on inhaling lavender oils, and many of them used EEG for the measures of relaxation and other mental states. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2018 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I actually meant OpenBCI not openEEG, that's definitively an option too. It might be a bit more expensive than Muse but you get the experience of printing and assembly it which should be fun. $\endgroup$
    – Ajar
    Dec 24, 2018 at 17:35

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