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Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience
Volume 2007 (2007), Article ID 48937, 12 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2007/48937
Research Article

Vibrotactile Feedback for Brain-Computer Interface Operation

1Laboratory of Neuroelectrical Imaging and Brain Computer Interface, Fondazione Santa Lucia IRCCS, Via Ardeatina 306, Roma 00179, Italy
2Laboratory of Computational Engineering, Helsinki University of Technology, P.O. Box 9203, TKK 02015, Finland
3Department of Computer Science, University of Bari, Via Orabona 4, Bari 70125, Italy
4Department of Mechanical Engineering, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 300 B, Leuven 3000, Belgium
5Dipartimento di Fisiologia Umana e Farmacologia, Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, Roma 00185, Italy
6Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”, Via Montpellier 1, Roma 00173, Italy
7IDIAP Research Institute, Martigny 1920, Switzerland
8Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne 1015, Switzerland

Received 18 February 2007; Accepted 26 June 2007

Academic Editor: Andrzej Cichocki

Copyright © 2007. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

To be correctly mastered, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) need an uninterrupted flow of feedback to the user. This feedback is usually delivered through the visual channel. Our aim was to explore 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. In three studies with 33 subjects (including 3 with spinal cord injury), we compared vibrotactile and visual feedback, addressing: (I) the feasibility of subjects' training to master their EEG rhythms using tactile feedback; (II) the compatibility of this form of feedback in presence of a visual distracter; (III) the performance in presence of a complex visual task on the same (visual) or different (tactile) sensory channel. The stimulation protocol we developed supports a general usage of the tactors; preliminary experimentations. All studies indicated that the vibrotactile channel can function as a valuable feedback modality with reliability comparable to the classical visual feedback. Advantages of using a vibrotactile feedback emerged when the visual channel was highly loaded by a complex task. In all experiments, vibrotactile feedback felt, after some training, more natural for both controls and SCI users.