An auditory brain-computer interface based on the self-regulation of slow cortical potentials

Mirko Pham*, Thilo Hinterberger, Nicola Neumann, Andrea Kübler, Nadine Hofmayer, Anke Grether, Barbara Wilhelm, Jean Jacques Vatine, Niels Birbaumer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. Communication support for severely paralyzed patients with visual impairment is needed. Therefore, the feasibility of a brain-computer interface (BCI) using auditory stimuli alone, based on the self-regulation of slow cortical potentials (SCPs), was investigated. Methods. Auditory stimuli were used for task and feedback presentation in an SCP self-regulation paradigm. Voluntarily produced SCP responses and measures of communication performance were compared between 3 groups (total of N = 59) of visual, auditory, and cross-modal visual-auditory modality. Electroencephalogram recordings and training from Cz-mastoids were carried out on 3 consecutive sessions. Data of 1500 trials per subject were collected. Results. Best performance was achieved for the visual, followed by the auditory condition. The performance deficit of the auditory condition was partly due to decreased self-produced positivity. Larger SCP response variability also accounted for lower performance of the auditory condition. Cross-modally presented stimuli did not lead to significant learning and control of SCP. Conclusions. Brain-computer communication using auditory stimuli only is possible. Smaller cortical positivity achieved in the auditory condition, as compared to the visual condition, may be a consequence of increased selective attention to simultaneously presented auditory stimuli. To optimize performance, auditory stimuli characteristics may have to be adapted. Other suggestions for enhancement of communication performance with auditory stimuli are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-218
Number of pages13
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory stimuli
  • Brain-computer communication
  • Brain-computer interface
  • Self-regulation
  • Slow cortical potentials (SCPs)


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