For most biopotential recordings, it is important to provide a low impedance contact with the tissue underneath the skin at the electrode site. Consequently skin should be abraded with pumice, an ELPAD or ELPREP. Alcohol prep pads are generally not preferred because they dry the skin. The purpose of abrasion is to remove dead cells from the outer layer of skin. These cells form an electrical barrier. Electrical communication from the electrode surface to the underlying tissue is most often through a water-based gel. For good recordings, this gel must soak into the skin. As alcohol dries out the skin, it slows the process of establishing the liquid bridge between electrode and tissue.
One exception where abrasion is not recommended is measurement of electrodermal activity (skin conductance). Here skin should be rinsed but neither washed with soap nor abraded. As the conductivity of the skin at the electrode site is the variable to be measured in this case, no steps should be taken to modify that conductance artificially.
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