The Linguistics department is excited to announce that our Brainvision EEG machine is up and running! Last week, Dr. Dustin Chacón recorded the brain waves of our first brave subject, Ph.D. student Donnie Dunagan. The machine works by using sensors on a subject’s scalp to measure their brain activity, especially in response to certain stimuli. The EEG machine can be used to examine the brain’s responses to words, sounds, and sentences. Ph.D. student Donnie Dunagan sits for a test-run as Dr. Dustin Chacón and Ph.D. student Hareem Khokhar dispense saline on cap sensors.Ph.D. student Donnie Dunagan's recorded brain waves. Our current EEG machine has 64 sensors, but Dr. Chacón hopes to upgrade the EEG cap to host 96 sensors by the Fall semester. The additional sensors will be used to assist in source reconstruction, the process of digitizing electrodes on a model of the brain to try and guess where brain activity is happening. An image showing source reconstruction in action--red dots signify the electrodes on the head.Use of EEG machines is very common in Linguistics, but Dr. Chacón hopes to use an old technique to explore new questions, such as: How does the brain respond to sentences shown quickly all at once, like when we scroll through Twitter or other social media? What is the brain’s response to different sentence wordings? By using the EEG machine to explore these questions, we can learn more about the way the brain handles sentences, syntax, and semantics. Moreover, because of the prevalence of EEG research in Linguistics studies, the EEG machine gives students the opportunity to gain valuable experience with a useful new tool. Dr. Chacón wears the EEG cap while being shown short sentences across the computer screen.Dr. Chacón wants undergraduate and graduate students alike to feel comfortable experimenting with the EEG machine and using it in their research in new and interesting ways. “I’m excited by the idea that people can turn sociolinguistic questions into neuro-experiments,” Dr. Chacón shares. He emphasizes that students have an open invitation to use a tool that belongs to them. By using the new technology, students can invent new things and try creative ideas—they might come up with something that nobody has thought of before. Undergraduate student Zahin Hoque uses the EEG machine to read the brain activity of Administrative Associate Amy Smoler. Ph.D. student Donnie Dunagan monitors as Dr. Chacón's brain activity is measured. Dr. Dustin Chacón stands by as Administrative Associate Amy Smoler adjusts the EEG cap. M.A. Students Michael Wolfman and Savannah Jane Williams assist Dr. Chacón in preparing the EEG cap for a test-run.