Some aspects of EEG research may be more appropriately determined and implemented by a researcher’s institution (including subunits of the institution, such as a department or building). In such cases, the institutional policies will typically take precedence over laboratory policy. We anticipate that many institutions will adopt the following policies:
Researchers and subjects who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., from this CDC list) or who have had recent contact with someone with COVID-19 may not be allowed to enter the building and/or laboratory. If rapid SARS-CoV-2 testing is available, participants and researchers may be required to be tested before entering the building. Rationale: Allowing individuals with evidence of COVID-19 infection into the building or laboratory may increase the risks substantially.
Daily temperature screening
Researcher personnel may be asked to take their temperature once or twice per day. Rationale: This may help prevent infected persons from entering the laboratory.
Risk factor screening
Researchers and subjects who are over age 65 and/or have health conditions associated with serious complications of COVID-19 (e.g., as described by Zheng et al., 2020 and Lighter et al., 2020) may be precluded from participating in in-person data collection. Rationale: It is impossible to guarantee that the risk of infection from an EEG experiment will be zero, so it may be desirable to exclude individuals who are more likely to experience serious complications of an infection, especially in research with no direct benefits to the subjects or no near-term benefit to health and well-being.
Face masks while in public spaces
Both subjects and experimenters may be required to wear masks while in any public areas of the building (including hallways and bathrooms). Rationale: This will reduce the spread of airborne virus particles.
The number of people (including both researchers and subjects) within a laboratory area may be limited. The specific limits will depend on the nature of the space, the research, and the participants. Rationale: This will decrease the viral load and facilitate contact tracing.
Logging of visitors
Laboratories may be required to maintain a log of who enters a building or laboratory, the time of entry and departure, and contact information (email and phone number). Rationale: This will facilitate contact tracing.
Notification of infections
Subjects may be asked to contact the lab if they develop a COVID-19 infection after the session (e.g., within 14 days), and the lab may be required to contact all subjects and research staff who were in the lab within a short time (e.g., 48 hours) of an infected person. Rationale: This will facilitate contact tracing.
Note: If the institution does not have policies regarding these issues, then we recommend that individual laboratories consider adopting them.
Modifications to General Laboratory Policies
1. Disposable masks must be worn at all times by everyone in the laboratory. A given mask may not be worn for more than one day before being discarded.
2. Experimenters should wear a lab coat and gloves whenever they are in the subject prep or testing areas.
3. No one may be in the subject prep and testing areas except the participant and 1-2 experimenters. For example, prepping two participants at the same time in the same room is prohibited.
4. Experimenters should spend as little time as possible in the testing area (during, before, and after a testing session)
5. Additional time should be scheduled between participants to allow time for cleaning/disinfecting and to ensure that one participant does not arrive before the previous participant has left.
6. Hair washing should be discontinued (unless the subject can do it alone in a separate room that will then be disinfected). Participants should be notified in advance that some gel will likely remain in their hair at the end of the session.
7. It may be appropriate to postpone experiments that require unusually prolonged periods of contact between the experimenter and the subject until the pandemic is over.
All laboratory personnel must be trained in the appropriate use of PPE, in handwashing and hand sanitizer application, and in disinfecting procedures. Experimenters must monitor research participants to ensure that their PPE fits properly when first applied, that the PPE continues to fit properly throughout the session, and that the participants wash or sanitize their hands properly.
Before the Participant Arrives
Online Consent and Survey Administration
If possible, any of the ordinary screening, consent, and survey forms should be filled out online before the participant arrives. If it is not possible to use online forms, the forms should be completed by the participant in a well-ventilated and easy-to-clean space, at least 2 m from other people. At the time of consent, the participant will also be given a brief description of the risk mitigation procedures.
Electrode Cap Pre-Measurement (Optional)
The participant should be asked to measure themselves for cap size by giving them an infographic or guide to measure circumference of their own head. If participants do not own an appropriate measuring tape, one can be mailed to them. This allows the experimenter to set up the cap before the subject arrives, which minimizes time in the laboratory. If the cap size is not known in advance, and enough electrode sets are available, multiple caps can be prepared in the most common sizes.
Other Procedures Prior to Arrival
1. As usual, send a reminder email 1-2 days before the study. Add a description of any procedures required by the institution for entry into the building/laboratory (e.g., symptom screening questionnaire, waiting at the door to the building). If necessary, adjust the usual list of reminders (e.g., noting that some gel may remain in the hair at the end of the session).
2. Lay out as much of the equipment prior to the subject’s arrival as you can. This includes a gel-filled syringe, syringe tips, towels, electrode collars, gloves, and alcohol wipes. See Step 2 in Prior to Arrival according to Farrens et al. (2019).
3. Using measurements supplied by the participant, prepare the electrode cap for the subject’s head.
4. Everything that the subject or experimenter might touch should be disinfected (see Cleaning/Disinfecting Procedures below), even if everything was disinfected after the previous subject (unless the time between sessions is relatively short so that we can be sure that nothing was touched between sessions).
When the Participant Arrives
1. While wearing a lab coat, gloves, and mask, meet the participant at the building entrance. Immediately have the participant put on a mask and apply hand sanitizer. The participant must wear the mask at all times while in the building, and the mask should be discarded when the participant leaves.
2. If participants arrive with their own PPE, they will be required to wear the PPE that we provide (so that we can ensure effectiveness). They may use their own hand sanitizer if it meets the typical standards for clinical use (>=60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol).
3. Any institutional policies regarding building/laboratory entry (e.g., temperature screening) should be followed (see Institutional Policies above).
Modifications to Electrode Application Procedure
We ordinarily have subjects vigorously comb/brush their hair/scalp to reduce impedance. This step should be performed by the subject at home rather than in the lab.
Talking should be minimized, focusing on the necessary instructions and answering questions about the procedure.
The following may be appropriate to reduce the duration of the electrode application procedure and increase safety in some experiments:
· Reducing the number of electrodes
· Reducing or eliminating electrodes near mucous membranes (e.g., EOG electrodes)
· Increasing impedance thresholds
1. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds (or apply hand sanitizer)
2. Put on a face shield, which should remain on while applying the electrodes at the beginning of the session, while making any adjustments to the electrodes during the session, and while removing them at the end of the session. The experimenter should already be wearing gloves, a lab coat, and mask.
3. Lead the participant into the subject prep area while maintaining a distance of at least 2 m. Continue to maintain this distance except when close contact is required.
4. Seat the subject in the subject prep area (optional: ask them to rest their chin on a chin rest affixed to the prep table to keep them from facing the experimenter).
5. If the subject has not already provided head measurements, measure the circumference of the subject’s head using a disposable soft tape measure, select the appropriate cap, and attach the electrodes.
6. Continue with the rest of the electrode application procedure, as described in Farrens et al. (2019).
7. Wash hands again for at least 20 seconds (or apply hand sanitizer)
8. Note: the subject should continue to wear a mask throughout this set of procedures. The mask should minimally interfere with electrodes and cap placement. It also should not produce any artifacts.
Modifications to the Data Collection Procedure
Execute steps 1-17 of Running the Subject according to Farrens et al. (2019), but maintain a distance of at least 2 m between participant and experimenter as much as possible. For example, whereas the experimenter would normally be in the recording area with the subject during the artifacts demo and task instructions, the experimenter should instead perform these steps via the intercom system. However, the experimenter may need to enter the recording area briefly (e.g., to connect the subject to the amplifier, to adjust any problematic electrodes).
To keep the control area clean, experimenters should wash their hands or apply hand sanitizer after entering the recording area or having any physical interaction with the subject.
Reminder: Both the experimenter and the subject must wear masks during the entire data collection period (even if a closed door separates the control area from the recording area). The experimenter should continue wearing a lab coat but need not wear gloves except when in the recording area.
It may be desirable to have the subject wear gloves during the data collection period to minimize surface-to-face transfer of the virus. However, this would likely be uncomfortable for experiments lasting more than ~15 minutes. Also, the latest advice (as of May 22, 2020) from the CDC is that transmission from surfaces is relatively rare, but this is subject to change.
Modifications to the Cleaning/Disinfecting Procedures
Execute steps 1-16 of Clean Up according to Farrens et al. (2019), immediately upon the subject’s departure, with the following changes:
● The experimenter will wear a lab coat, gloves, and a mask throughout these procedures.
● Participant hair washing is discontinued (unless the subject can do it alone in a separate room that will then be disinfected). Instead, gel should simply be wiped from the hair to the extent possible with a tissue or gauze pad.
● After the electrodes have been removed and the gel is wiped from the subject’s hair, the subject should be walked to the exit, then asked to apply hand sanitizer, and finally asked to remove and discard the face mask. The experimenter should then apply hand sanitizer. A hand sanitizer dispenser and trash bin should be placed by the building exit to facilitate these steps.
● Step 9 & Step 11: Disinfect the electrodes and electrode caps in Envirocide solution for 3 minutes.
○ Although Envirocide has not been tested with SARS-CoV-2, it is active against enveloped viruses such as the Coronavirus family. Indeed, enveloped viruses (such as those in the Coronavirus family) are the easiest to kill.
○ This disinfecting procedure is recommended for the Brain Products actiCAP system. If you are using a different system, contact the manufacturer for disinfecting advice.
● As usual, used syringes and tips are discarded.
● Discard or disinfect plastic chair covers.
● Using a 70% isopropyl solution or other approved disinfectant, spray and wipe down:
○ All chairs and table surfaces in both the preparation area and testing area
○ All response devices
○ All high-touch surfaces such as door handles
○ Anything that might be touched by the subject or the experimenter (e.g., the microphone for the intercom system)
● The experimenter’s gloves can be discarded and the lab coat can be removed once the subject has departed.
● The lab coat must be washed at the end of the day before it can be worn again.
● The experimenter’s mask should be discarded and hands should be sanitized when the experimenter leaves the building.