Development of an ultra low noise, miniature signal conditioning device for vestibular evoked response recordings

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Kumaragamage, Chathura L
Lithgow, Brian J
Moussavi, Zahra
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Abstract Background Inner ear evoked potentials are small amplitude (<1 μVpk) signals that require a low noise signal acquisition protocol for successful extraction; an existing such technique is Electrocochleography (ECOG). A novel variant of ECOG called Electrovestibulography (EVestG) is currently investigated by our group, which captures vestibular responses to a whole body tilt. The objective is to design and implement a bio-signal amplifier optimized for ECOG and EVestG, which will be superior in noise performance compared to low noise, general purpose devices available commercially. Method A high gain configuration is required (>85 dB) for such small signal recordings; thus, background power line interference (PLI) can have adverse effects. Active electrode shielding and driven-right-leg circuitry optimized for EVestG/ECOG recordings were investigated for PLI suppression. A parallel pre-amplifier design approach was investigated to realize low voltage, and current noise figures for the bio-signal amplifier. Results In comparison to the currently used device, PLI is significantly suppressed by the designed prototype (by >20 dB in specific test scenarios), and the prototype amplifier generated noise was measured to be 4.8 nV / Hz @ 1 kHz (0.45 μVRMS with bandwidth 10 Hz-10 kHz), which is lower than the currently used device generated noise of 7.8 nV / Hz @ 1 kHz (0.76 μVRMS). A low noise (<1 nV / Hz ) radio frequency interference filter was realized to minimize noise contribution from the pre-amplifier, while maintaining the required bandwidth in high impedance measurements. Validation of the prototype device was conducted for actual ECOG recordings on humans that showed an increase (p < 0.05) of ~5 dB in Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR), and for EVestG recordings using a synthetic ear model that showed a ~4% improvement (p < 0.01) over the currently used amplifier. Conclusion This paper presents the design and evaluation of an ultra-low noise and miniaturized bio-signal amplifier tailored for EVestG and ECOG. The increase in SNR for the implemented amplifier will reduce variability associated with bio-features extracted from such recordings; hence sensitivity and specificity measures associated with disease classification are expected to increase. Furthermore, immunity to PLI has enabled EVestG and ECOG recordings to be carried out in a non-shielded clinical environment.
BioMedical Engineering OnLine. 2014 Jan 27;13(1):6