Assessing and conceptualizing frontal EEG asymmetry: An updated primer on recording, processing, analyzing, and interpreting frontal alpha asymmetry

Ezra E. Smith, Samantha J. Reznik, Jennifer L. Stewart, John JB Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations


Frontal electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha asymmetry is widely researched in studies of emotion, motivation, and psychopathology, yet it is a metric that has been quantified and analyzed using diverse procedures, and diversity in procedures muddles cross-study interpretation. The aim of this article is to provide an updated tutorial for EEG alpha asymmetry recording, processing, analysis, and interpretation, with an eye towards improving consistency of results across studies. First, a brief background in alpha asymmetry findings is provided. Then, some guidelines for recording, processing, and analyzing alpha asymmetry are presented with an emphasis on the creation of asymmetry scores, referencing choices, and artifact removal. Processing steps are explained in detail, and references to MATLAB-based toolboxes that are helpful for creating and investigating alpha asymmetry are noted. Then, conceptual challenges and interpretative issues are reviewed, including a discussion of alpha asymmetry as a mediator/moderator of emotion and psychopathology. Finally, the effects of two automated component-based artifact correction algorithms—MARA and ADJUST—on frontal alpha asymmetry are evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-114
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017



  • Frontal EEG asymmetry
  • ICA artifact correction
  • Signal processing
  • Statistical models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)

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