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Does bimodal stimulus presentation increase ERP components usable in BCIs?

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Author: Thurlings, M.E. · Brouwer, A.M. · Erp, J.B.F. van · Blankertz, B. · Werkhoven, P.J.
Source:Journal of Neural Engineering, 4, 9
Identifier: 462164
doi: doi:10.1088/1741-2560/9/4/045005
Article number: 045005
Keywords: Ergonomics · Bitrates · Brain activity · Brain response · Classification accuracy · Event-related potentials · Future applications · Multisensory integration · Offline classification · Spatial attention · Stimulus processing · Tactile stimuli · Task performance · Visual display · Visual stimulus · Biomedical engineering · Engineering technology · Neurology · Brain computer interface · adult · article · brain computer interface · electroencephalogram · event related potential · female · human · hypothesis · male · medical research · normal human · priority journal · sensory analysis · tactile stimulation · task performance · visual stimulation · Information Society · Human · PCS - Perceptual and Cognitive Systems · BSS - Behavioural and Societal Sciences


Event-related potential (ERP)-based brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) employ differences in brain responses to attended and ignored stimuli. Typically, visual stimuli are used. Tactile stimuli have recently been suggested as a gaze-independent alternative. Bimodal stimuli could evoke additional brain activity due to multisensory integration which may be of use in BCIs. We investigated the effect of visual–tactile stimulus presentation on the chain of ERP components, BCI performance (classification accuracies and bitrates) and participants' task performance (counting of targets). Ten participants were instructed to navigate a visual display by attending (spatially) to targets in sequences of either visual, tactile or visual–tactile stimuli. We observe that attending to visual–tactile (compared to either visual or tactile) stimuli results in an enhanced early ERP component (N1). This bimodal N1 may enhance BCI performance, as suggested by a nonsignificant positive trend in offline classification accuracies. A late ERP component (P300) is reduced when attending to visual–tactile compared to visual stimuli, which is consistent with the nonsignificant negative trend of participants' task performance. We discuss these findings in the light of affected spatial attention at high-level compared to low-level stimulus processing. Furthermore, we evaluate bimodal BCIs from a practical perspective and for future applications