Continuing Human Neuroscience Research in the Era of SARS-COV-2

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We’re Preparing for the New Normal

As I write, late Friday May 8, 2020, our office is still effectively closed, although we have been able to keep operations going with a skeleton crew of a couple of people. Like most of our customers and their institutions, most of our staff are presently working remotely, but the time will come when we all have to get back to work. We will have to come to grips with this new normal.

When will we be visiting labs around North America to see your shining faces and to learn about your bright ideas? It is too soon to know, but we hope to be able to visit you soon.

What about remote training and support?

Meanwhile, we are gearing up to deliver training and support remotely over our proprietary RingCentral conference system. It’s basically Zoom, but neatly bundled with our phone system. We have a dedicated lab space with multiple cameras in our NC office for demonstrations and training, and our CA office is equipped to do the best possible remote software and data analysis training.

What new supplies will we need?

We are preparing a new section on the website for you to be able to order PPE and cleaning supplies to keep your participants and yourselves safe. Stay tuned for more on this. What kind of special protective gear, cleaning products, and equipment will you need to operate your lab in light of the continuing spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID 19? We have some ideas, but we would love to hear from you, too!

Please participate in our survey on PPE needs!

How should we disinfect research equipment and laboratory surfaces?

One of the most commonly asked questions lately is about what type of disinfectant to use on research instruments, such as EEG electrodes and caps, fNIRS optodes and caps, chin rests, response devices, furniture, etc used in research laboratories. Our recommended disinfectant for use with all of our products is Clorox Healthcare Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner and Disinfectant (hereafter CHHPCD). CHHPCD is listed on the EPA site as effective against SARS-COV-2 with an exposure time of 2 minutes. You can get the EPA registration number at this page, and enter it at List N on EPA site to see that it is listed. This product is recommended for use on fabric, and we know it to be safe for the caps and electrodes, so it will continue to be our first choice.

CHHPCD is a proprietary blend of hydrogen peroxide with an activator to boost its effectiveness. See these links for additional background:

  • https://smartlabel.labelinsight.com/product/6115935/ingredients
  • https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/clorox-healthcaretm-introduces-new-line-of-activated-hydrogen-peroxide-cleaner-disinfectants-138316989.html

See this informative article for some background on effectiveness claims.

Unfortunately, as of today, CHHPCD is out of stock virtually everywhere. We will continue to do our best to restock.

What alternatives are there in case CHHPCD remains in short supply?

One alternative to CHHPDC is Clorox Clean-Up (CCU), which we do have in stock. CCU is effective against SARS-COV-2 with an exposure time of 30 seconds. Note that CCU contains bleach, so there may be some effect on the service life of the products. See below for more on this.

Can I use unbranded alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or bleach to disinfect?

We are not infection control experts nor chemists, so we are unable to make specific recommendations about exposure times or concentrations of other widely available unbranded chemicals that re not backed by any manufacturer claims. We can only say what the effect of certain chemicals is likely to be on the electrodes and caps.

  • 3-5% hydrogen peroxide would be safe to use on caps and electrodes, but this chart indicates that at higher concentrations you may expect the acrylic housings of the active electrodes to suffer some discoloration, and I would not be surprised if that would shorten their useful life.
  • 10% isopropyl alcohol is also safe for use with the caps and electrodes. I have not tested higher concentrations, but it is my understanding that 70% is the recommended concentration for disinfection. I do not have any reason to believe that 70% would cause problems with the electrode contacts, but I have seen evidence that alcohols tend to dry-out and degrade the flexibility of plastics, including wire insulation. In the long run this will lead to cracking, moisture ingress, corrosion, and failure.
  • Household bleach containing sodium hypochlorite can be used on the caps and electrodes, but there will be some consequences. Bleach tends to take the color out of the fabric caps over time. It may also result in darkening of the electrode pellets. That relates to the deposition of Chloride on the electrodes, which is not harmful, but it may lead to ionic imbalance between electrodes that are used and disinfected often compared to new electrodes or electrodes used less often. To alleviate the imbalance, soak new electrodes in a salt-water bath (tap water with non-iodized table salt) with well-used electrodes for 10 minutes before their first use.

Let us know your thoughts about your plans in this regard! What we learn from you, we will share with others. Thanks in advance!

Useful COVID-19 Resources

Guidance on the use of Personal Protective Equipment

Guidance from Professional Societies with EEG Emphasis

Getting Back to Work

Research with Human Subjects