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J Neural Eng. 2011 Dec;8(6):066003. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/8/6/066003. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

Gaze-independent brain-computer interfaces based on covert attention and feature attention.

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  • 1Machine Learning Laboratory, Berlin Institute of Technology, Berlin, Germany.


There is evidence that conventional visual brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) based on event-related potentials cannot be operated efficiently when eye movements are not allowed. To overcome this limitation, the aim of this study was to develop a visual speller that does not require eye movements. Three different variants of a two-stage visual speller based on covert spatial attention and non-spatial feature attention (i.e. attention to colour and form) were tested in an online experiment with 13 healthy participants. All participants achieved highly accurate BCI control. They could select one out of thirty symbols (chance level 3.3%) with mean accuracies of 88%-97% for the different spellers. The best results were obtained for a speller that was operated using non-spatial feature attention only. These results show that, using feature attention, it is possible to realize high-accuracy, fast-paced visual spellers that have a large vocabulary and are independent of eye gaze.

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