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Brain-Computer Interfaces: Lab Experiments to Real-World Applications
Progress in non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG)-based brain-computer interface (BCI) research, development and innovation has accelerated in recent years. New brain signal signatures for inferring user intent and more complex control strategies have been the focus of many recent developments. Major advances in recording technology, signal processing techniques and clinical applications, tested with patient cohorts as well as non-clinical applications have been reported. This volume of Progress in Brain Research presents a timely snapshot of some of the current trends and state-of-the-art in these areas, with an emphasis placed on the underlying neurology and neurophysiologic signalling underpinning the BCIs presented with all contributions centered around electroencephalography but relevant to all other neuroimaging/recording modalities.
Contributions cover some of the current hottest topics in brain-computer interface research, including a thorough review of psychological factors affecting user training in BCI and their associated neural correlates, elucidating how knowledge of such factors can be very informative when designing training protocols for BCI participants and end-users. Three contributions are centred around decoding three dimensional hand/arm movements and discriminating arm movement in different planes from electroencephalography, including a thorough review delineating classical motor imagery detection against more complex movement intentions decoding. A second study highlights the importance of information encoded in EEG mu and beta band power whereas many 3D hand movement decoding studies have focused on lower delta bands for 3D movement decoding. A reaching and grasping study with end-users of this specific research – upper limb amputees, highlights the potential for exploiting motion trajectory prediction (MTP) BCIs for neuroprosthetic control.
This clinical application study is followed by a further five chapters, which review and highlight methodological considerations and results for a range of other clinical applications of non-invasive BCIs. These include an informative and cogent historical perspective of BCI development and an overview of BCIs intended to provide a means of communication for patients with locked-in syndrome (LIS) due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and for the restoration of motor function to patients who have suffered severe stroke. This is followed by a chapter, which highlights the powerful prospects for BCI in promoting neural plasticity for rehabilitation in post-stroke hemiplegia, with an emphasis on BCI paradigms where motor cortical output and input are simultaneously activated by translating motor cortical activity associated with the attempt to move paralyzed fingers into actual exoskeleton driven finger movements. Beyond upper limb and hand rehabilitation in stroke, another chapter addresses a potentially new application for BCIs, namely, dysphagia rehabilitation, providing a thorough review of neural and cortical correlates of swallowing and detection of the motor imagery of swallow. This is followed by an ALS patient study of a newly proposed paradigm that targets higher level cognitive processes namely, activation of self-referential memory and cognitive task devoid of mnemonic content, to transmit information and infer user intent. The hypothesis is that higher cognitive tasks to modulate brain activity may be better than tasks that involve sensorimotor processes for ALS sufferers, as sensorimotor processes are impaired in ALS.
This hypothesis may have implications for the topic of the chapter that follows, which focuses on a thorough review of the literature on applying BCI for assessment of awareness and communication in patients with disorders of consciousness (DoC) following brain injury. This application has received increased attention in recent years following a number of studies showing that patients diagnosed in vegetative state or minimally consciousness state, who cannot respond or communicate with overt behavioural responses, are capable of modulating brain activity through imagery or by attending stimuli presented visually or auditorily.
These clinical studies are complemented with coverage of two distinct non-clinical applications. The first focuses on assessment of cognitive load or mental workload of professional air traffic controllers during realistic air traffic control tasks using a passive BCI, demonstrating the feasibility of passive BCIs in operative environments. The second focuses on exploring the impact of graphical complexity and display modality on visual evoked potentials i.e., a standard display monitor versus a virtual reality wearable display headset, when used in a neurogaming context. This study focuses on a motion-onset visual evoked potentials (mVEP) paradigm, which has received less attention compared to its VEP counterpart paradigms such as the P300 paradigm and the steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEP) paradigm.
The last two chapters in the volume focus around usability of BCI, with a focus on clinical applications highlighting issues that impact on fostering BCI outside the laboratory and the practical issues for use in real-life. These include the BCI technology meeting requirements such as being simple to operate, requiring minimal expert oversight, being usable by the people who need them, in essence, following a user-centred design for developing practical BCI products with an emphasis on translational BCI research.
In summary, Brain-Computer Interfaces: Lab Experiments to Real-World Applications deals with both the advanced, fundamental research and practical considerations involved in taking electroencephalography-based brain-computer interfaces from laboratory experiments to real world applications. All contributors have done an excellent job in highlighting the advances and challenges in their respective research topics. The fact that the majority of studies presented in this volume involve end-users, and cover a range of human conditions caused by disease and injury, is a strong endorsement of how the field is progressing towards the translation of BCI research into viable neurotechnology that can improve the quality of life for many and that can change lives for many. There, no doubt, are still significant challenges and therefore a need for continued fundamental and translational research. It is hoped that this book volume serves as a valuable source of information and a key reference point for the next wave of research and development in the evolution of brain-computer interfaces.
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