Citizen neuroscience: Wearable technology and open software to study the human brain in its natural habitat

Mahdad Jafarzadeh Esfahani, Niloy Sikder, Rob Ter Horst, Amir Hossein Daraie, Kristoffer Appel, Frederik D Weber, Kirsten E Bevelander, Martin Dresler

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Citizen science allows the public to participate in various stages of scientific research, including study design, data acquisition, and data analysis. Citizen science has a long history in several fields of the natural sciences, and with recent developments in wearable technology, neuroscience has also become more accessible to citizen scientists. This development was largely driven by the influx of minimal sensing systems in the consumer market, allowing more do-it-yourself (DIY) and quantified-self (QS) investigations of the human brain. While most subfields of neuroscience require sophisticated monitoring devices and laboratories, the study of sleep characteristics can be performed at home with relevant noninvasive consumer devices. The strong influence of sleep quality on waking life and the accessibility of devices to measure sleep are two primary reasons citizen scientists have widely embraced sleep research. Their involvement has evolved from solely contributing to data collection to engaging in more collaborative or autonomous approaches, such as instigating ideas, formulating research inquiries, designing research protocols and methodology, acting upon their findings, and disseminating results. In this article, we introduce the emerging field of citizen neuroscience, illustrating examples of such projects in sleep research. We then provide overviews of the wearable technologies for tracking human neurophysiology and various open-source software used to analyse them. Finally, we discuss the opportunities and challenges in citizen neuroscience projects and suggest how to improve the study of the human brain outside the laboratory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)948-965
JournalThe European journal of neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 08 Feb 2024


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