Infoscience

Conference paper

Brain-Machine Interfaces through Control of Electroencephalographic Signals and Vibrotactile Feedback

A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) allow direct expression of its user�s will by interpreting signals which directly reflect the brain�s activity, thus bypassing the natural efferent channels (nerves and muscles). To be correctly mastered, it is needed that this artificial efferent channel is complemented by an artificial feedback, which continuously informs the user about the current state (in the same way as proprioceptors give a feedback about joint angle and muscular tension). This feedback is usually delivered through the visual channel. We explored the benefits of vibrotactile feedback during users� training and control of EEG-based BCI applications. A protocol for delivering vibrotactile feedback, including specific hardware and software arrangements, was specified and implemented. Thirteen subjects participated in an experiment where the feedback of the BCI system was delivered either through a visual display, or through a vibrotactile display, while they performed a virtual navigation task. Attention to the task was probed by presenting visual cues that the subjects had to describe afterwards. When compared with visual feedback, the use of tactile feedback did not decrease BCI control performance; on the other side, it improved the capacity of subjects to concentrate on the requested (visual) task. During experiments, vibrotactile feedback felt (after some training) more natural. This study indicated that the vibrotactile channel can function as a valuable feedback modality in the context of BCI applications. Advantages of using a vibrotactile feedback emerged when the visual channel was highly loaded by a complex task.

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