Infoscience

Journal article

Task-Dependent Signal Variations in EEG Error-Related Potentials for Brain-Computer Interfaces

Objective. A major difficulty of brain–computer interface (BCI) technology is dealing with the noise of EEG and its signal variations. Previous works studied time-dependent non-stationarities for BCIs in which the user's mental task was independent of the device operation (e.g., the mental task was motor imagery and the operational task was a speller). However, there are some BCIs, such as those based on error-related potentials, where the mental and operational tasks are dependent (e.g., the mental task is to assess the device action and the operational task is the device action itself). The dependence between the mental task and the device operation could introduce a new source of signal variations when the operational task changes, which has not been studied yet. The aim of this study is to analyse task-dependent signal variations and their effect on EEG error-related potentials.Approach. The work analyses the EEG variations on the three design steps of BCIs: an electrophysiology study to characterize the existence of these variations, a feature distribution analysis and a single-trial classification analysis to measure the impact on the final BCI performance.Results and significance. The results demonstrate that a change in the operational task produces variations in the potentials, even when EEG activity exclusively originated in brain areas related to error processing is considered. Consequently, the extracted features from the signals vary, and a classifier trained with one operational task presents a significant loss of performance for other tasks, requiring calibration or adaptation for each new task. In addition, a new calibration for each of the studied tasks rapidly outperforms adaptive techniques designed in the literature to mitigate the EEG time-dependent non-stationarities.

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