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A gaze independent brain-computer interface based on visual stimulation through closed eyelids

Hwang, Han-Jeong; Ferreria, Valeria Y.; Ulrich, Daniel; Kilic, Tayfun; Chatziliadis, Xenofon; Blankertz, Benjamin; Treder, Matthias

A classical brain-computer interface (BCI) based on visual event-related potentials (ERPs) is of limited application value for paralyzed patients with severe oculomotor impairments. In this study, we introduce a novel gaze independent BCI paradigm that can be potentially used for such end-users because visual stimuli are administered on closed eyelids. The paradigm involved verbally presented questions with 3 possible answers. Online BCI experiments were conducted with twelve healthy subjects, where they selected one option by attending to one of three different visual stimuli. It was confirmed that typical cognitive ERPs can be evidently modulated by the attention of a target stimulus in eyes-closed and gaze independent condition and further classified with high accuracy during online operation (74.58% ± 17.85 s.d.; chance level 33.33%), demonstrating the effectiveness of the proposed novel visual ERP paradigm. Also, stimulus-specific eye movements observed during stimulation were verified as reflex responses to light stimuli and they did not contribute to classification. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to show the possibility of using a gaze independent visual ERP paradigm in an eyes-closed condition, thereby providing another communication option for severely locked-in patients suffering from complex ocular dysfunctions.
Published in: Scientific Reports, 10.1038/srep15890, Springer Nature