Racial disparities in EEG research and their implications for our understanding of the maternal brain

Francesca Penner, Kathryn M. Wall, Kathleen W. Guan, Helen J. Huang, Lietsel Richardson, Angel S. Dunbar, Ashley M. Groh, Helena J.V. Rutherford*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Racial disparities in maternal health are alarming and persistent. Use of electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs) to understand the maternal brain can improve our knowledge of maternal health by providing insight into mechanisms underlying maternal well-being, including implications for child development. However, systematic racial bias exists in EEG methodology—particularly for Black individuals—and in psychological and health research broadly. This paper discusses these biases in the context of EEG/ERP research on the maternal brain. First, we assess the racial/ethnic diversity of existing ERP studies of maternal neural responding to infant/child emotional expressions, using papers from a recent meta-analysis, finding that the majority of mothers represented in this research are of White/European ancestry and that the racially and ethnically diverse samples that are present are limited in terms of geography. Therefore, our current knowledge base in this area may be biased and not generalizable across racially diverse mothers. We outline factors underlying this problem, beginning with the racial bias in EEG equipment that systematically excludes individuals of African descent, and also considering factors specific to research with mothers. Finally, we highlight recent innovations to EEG hardware to better accommodate diverse hairstyles and textures, and other important steps to increase racial and ethnic representativeness in EEG/ERP research with mothers. We urge EEG/ERP researchers who study the maternal brain—including our own research group—to take action to increase racial diversity so that this research area can confidently inform understanding of maternal health and contribute to minimizing maternal health disparities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Diversity
  • Inclusivity
  • Maternal brain
  • Racial disparity
  • Systemic racism


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