Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Brain–computer interface


Direct brain control of overground walking in those with paraplegia due to spinal cord injury (SCI) has not been achieved. Invasive brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) may provide a permanent solution to this problem by directly linking the brain to lower extremity prostheses. To justify the pursuit of such invasive systems, the feasibility of BCI controlled overground walking should first be established in a noninvasive manner. To accomplish this goal, we developed an electroencephalogram (EEG)-based BCI to control a functional electrical stimulation (FES) system for overground walking and assessed its performance in an individual with paraplegia due to SCI.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Brain, Neuroscience, Cerebrospinal fluid, Spinal cord injury, Brain–computer interface, Neuroprosthetics, Brain-computer interfacing


In most brain computer interface (BCI) systems, some target users have significant difficulty in using BCI systems. Such target users are called ‘BCI-illiterate’. This phenomenon has been poorly investigated, and a clear understanding of the BCI-illiteracy mechanism or a solution to this problem has not been reported to date. In this study, we sought to demonstrate the neurophysiological differences between two groups (literate, illiterate) with a total of 52 subjects. We investigated recordings under non-task related state (NTS) which is collected during subject is relaxed with eyes open. We found that high theta and low alpha waves were noticeable in the BCI-illiterate relative to the BCI-literate people. Furthermore, these high theta and low alpha wave patterns were preserved across different mental states, such as NTS, resting before motor imagery (MI), and MI states, even though the spatial distribution of both BCI-illiterate and BCI-literate groups did not differ. From these findings, an effective strategy for pre-screening subjects for BCI illiteracy has been determined, and a performance factor that reflects potential user performance has been proposed using a simple combination of band powers. Our proposed performance factor gave an r = 0.59 (r(2) = 0.34) in a correlation analysis with BCI performance and yielded as much as r = 0.70 (r(2) = 0.50) when seven outliers were rejected during the evaluation of whole data (N = 61), including BCI competition datasets (N = 9). These findings may be directly applicable to online BCI systems.

Concepts: Neuroscience, Brain–computer interface, Literacy, Alpha wave, Hans Berger, Functional illiteracy, Multimedia literacy, Alpha Waves


Detecting event related potentials (ERPs) from single trials is critical to the operation of many stimulus-driven brain computer interface (BCI) systems. The low strength of the ERP signal compared to the noise (due to artifacts and BCI irrelevant brain processes) makes this a challenging signal detection problem. Previous work has tended to focus on how best to detect a single ERP type (such as the visual oddball response). However, the underlying ERP detection problem is essentially the same regardless of stimulus modality (e.g. visual or tactile), ERP component (e.g. P300 oddball response, or the error-potential), measurement system or electrode layout. To investigate whether a single ERP detection method might work for a wider range of ERP BCIs we compare detection performance over a large corpus of more than 50 ERP BCI datasets whilst systematically varying the electrode montage, spectral filter, spatial filter and classifier training methods. We identify an interesting interaction between spatial whitening and regularised classification which made detection performance independent of the choice of spectral filter low-pass frequency. Our results show that pipeline consisting of spectral filtering, spatial whitening, and regularised classification gives near maximal performance in all cases. Importantly, this pipeline is simple to implement and completely automatic with no expert feature selection or parameter tuning required. Thus, we recommend this combination as a “best-practice” method for ERP detection problems.

Concepts: Brain, Interaction, Sensory system, Object-oriented programming, Brain–computer interface, Filter, Filters, Brain-computer interfacing


Brain function depends on simultaneous electrical, chemical and mechanical signaling at the cellular level. This multiplicity has confounded efforts to simultaneously measure or modulate these diverse signals in vivo. Here we present fiber probes that allow for simultaneous optical stimulation, neural recording and drug delivery in behaving mice with high resolution. These fibers are fabricated from polymers by means of a thermal drawing process that allows for the integration of multiple materials and interrogation modalities into neural probes. Mechanical, electrical, optical and microfluidic measurements revealed high flexibility and functionality of the probes under bending deformation. Long-term in vivo recordings, optogenetic stimulation, drug perturbation and analysis of tissue response confirmed that our probes can form stable brain-machine interfaces for at least 2 months. We expect that our multifunctional fibers will permit more detailed manipulation and analysis of neural circuits deep in the brain of behaving animals than achievable before.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Psychoactive drug, Brain–computer interface, Echinoderm


Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) based on real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) are currently explored in the context of developing alternative (motor-independent) communication and control means for the severely disabled. In such BCI systems, the user encodes a particular intention (e.g., an answer to a question or an intended action) by evoking specific mental activity resulting in a distinct brain state that can be decoded from fMRI activation. One goal in this context is to increase the degrees of freedom in encoding different intentions, i.e., to allow the BCI user to choose from as many options as possible. Recently, the ability to voluntarily modulate spatial and/or temporal blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD)-signal features have been explored implementing different mental tasks and/or different encoding time intervals, respectively. Our two-session fMRI feasibility study systematically investigated for the first time the possibility of using magnitudinal BOLD-signal features for intention encoding. Particularly, in our novel paradigm, participants (n = 10) were asked to alternately self-regulate their regional brain-activation level to 30%, 60% or 90% of their maximal capacity by applying a selected activation strategy (i.e., performing a mental task, e.g., inner speech) and modulation strategies (e.g., using different speech rates) suggested by the experimenters. In a second step, we tested the hypothesis that the additional availability of feedback information on the current BOLD-signal level within a region of interest improves the gradual-self regulation performance. Therefore, participants were provided with neurofeedback in one of the two fMRI sessions. Our results show that the majority of the participants were able to gradually self-regulate regional brain activation to at least two target levels even in the absence of neurofeedback. When provided with continuous feedback on their current BOLD-signal level, most participants further enhanced their gradual self-regulation ability. Our findings were observed across a wide variety of mental tasks and across clinical MR field strengths (i.e., at 1.5T and 3T), indicating that these findings are robust and can be generalized across mental tasks and scanner types. The suggested novel parametric activation paradigm enriches the spectrum of current rtfMRI-neurofeedback and BCI methodology and has considerable potential for fundamental and clinical neuroscience applications.

Concepts: Brain, Neuroimaging, Brain tumor, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Magnetic resonance imaging, Electroencephalography, Functional magnetic resonance imaging, Brain–computer interface


Current research in brain computer interface (BCI) technology is advancing beyond preclinical studies, with trials beginning in human patients. To date, these trials have been carried out with several different types of recording interfaces. The success of these devices has varied widely, but different factors such as the level of invasiveness, timescale of recorded information, and ability to maintain stable functionality of the device over a long period of time all must be considered in addition to accuracy in decoding intent when assessing the most practical type of device moving forward. Here, we discuss various approaches to BCIs, distinguishing between devices focusing on control of operations extrinsic to the subject (e.g., prosthetic limbs, computer cursors) and those focusing on control of operations intrinsic to the brain (e.g., using stimulation or external feedback), including closed-loop or adaptive devices. In this discussion, we consider the current challenges facing the translation of various types of BCI technology to eventual human application.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Pre-clinical development, Object-oriented programming, Brain–computer interface


Increasing evidence suggests that neural population responses have their own internal drive, or dynamics, that describe how the neural population evolves through time. An important prediction of neural dynamical models is that previously observed neural activity is informative of noisy yet-to-be-observed activity on single-trials, and may thus have a denoising effect. To investigate this prediction, we built and characterized dynamical models of single-trial motor cortical activity. We find these models capture salient dynamical features of the neural population and are informative of future neural activity on single trials. To assess how neural dynamics may beneficially denoise single-trial neural activity, we incorporate neural dynamics into a brain-machine interface (BMI). In online experiments, we find that a neural dynamical BMI achieves substantially higher performance than its non-dynamical counterpart. These results provide evidence that neural dynamics beneficially inform the temporal evolution of neural activity on single trials and may directly impact the performance of BMIs.

Concepts: Brain, Evolution, Future, Neuroscience, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Hypothesis, Brain–computer interface


Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) promise to restore independence for people with severe motor disabilities by translating decoded neural activity directly into the control of a computer. However, recorded neural signals are not stationary (that is, can change over time), degrading the quality of decoding. Requiring users to pause what they are doing whenever signals change to perform decoder recalibration routines is time-consuming and impractical for everyday use of BCIs. We demonstrate that signal nonstationarity in an intracortical BCI can be mitigated automatically in software, enabling long periods (hours to days) of self-paced point-and-click typing by people with tetraplegia, without degradation in neural control. Three key innovations were included in our approach: tracking the statistics of the neural activity during self-timed pauses in neural control, velocity bias correction during neural control, and periodically recalibrating the decoder using data acquired during typing by mapping neural activity to movement intentions that are inferred retrospectively based on the user’s self-selected targets. These methods, which can be extended to a variety of neurally controlled applications, advance the potential for intracortical BCIs to help restore independent communication and assistive device control for people with paralysis.

Concepts: Brain, Neuroscience, Signal, Control, Paralysis, Brain–computer interface, Decoder, User interface techniques


The past 20 years have witnessed unprecedented progress in brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). However, low communication rates remain key obstacles to BCI-based communication in humans. This study presents an electroencephalogram-based BCI speller that can achieve information transfer rates (ITRs) up to 5.32 bits per second, the highest ITRs reported in BCI spellers using either noninvasive or invasive methods. Based on extremely high consistency of frequency and phase observed between visual flickering signals and the elicited single-trial steady-state visual evoked potentials, this study developed a synchronous modulation and demodulation paradigm to implement the speller. Specifically, this study proposed a new joint frequency-phase modulation method to tag 40 characters with 0.5-s-long flickering signals and developed a user-specific target identification algorithm using individual calibration data. The speller achieved high ITRs in online spelling tasks. This study demonstrates that BCIs can provide a truly naturalistic high-speed communication channel using noninvasively recorded brain activities.

Concepts: Brain, Electroencephalography, Evoked potential, Medical tests, Modulation, Object-oriented programming, Brain–computer interface, Channel


The relation between a stimulus and the evoked brain response can shed light on perceptual processes within the brain. Signals derived from this relation can also be harnessed to control external devices for Brain Computer Interface (BCI) applications. While the classic event-related potential (ERP) is appropriate for isolated stimuli, more sophisticated “decoding” strategies are needed to address continuous stimuli such as speech, music or environmental sounds. Here we describe an approach based on Canonical Correlation Analysis (CCA) that finds the optimal transform to apply to both the stimulus and the response to reveal correlations between the two. Compared to prior methods based on forward or backward models for stimulus-response mapping, CCA finds significantly higher correlation scores, thus providing increased sensitivity to relatively small effects, and supports classifier schemes that yield higher classification scores. CCA strips the brain response of variance unrelated to the stimulus, and the stimulus representation of variance that does not affect the response, and thus improves observations of the relation between stimulus and response.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Mind, Covariance and correlation, Object-oriented programming, Canonical correlation, Brain–computer interface