The mental prosthesis: assessing the speed of a P300-based brain-computer interface

IEEE Trans Rehabil Eng. 2000 Jun;8(2):174-9. doi: 10.1109/86.847808.


We describe a study designed to assess a brain-computer interface (BCI), originally described by Farwell and Donchin [9] in 1988. The system utilizes the fact that the rare events in the oddball paradigm elicit the P300 component of the event-related potential (ERP). The BCI presents the user with a matrix of 6 by 6 cells, each containing one letter of the alphabet. The user focuses attention on the cell containing the letter to be communicated while the rows and the columns of the matrix are intensified. Each intensification is an event in the oddball sequence, the row and the column containing the attended cell are "rare" items and, therefore, only these events elicit a P300. The computer thus detects the transmitted character by determining which row and which column elicited the P300. We report an assessment, using a boot-strapping approach, which indicates that an off line version of the system can communicate at the rate of 7.8 characters a minute and achieve 80% accuracy. The system's performance in real time was also assessed. Our data indicate that a P300-based BCI is feasible and practical. However, these conclusions are based on tests using healthy individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Communication Aids for Disabled*
  • Electrodes
  • Electroencephalography / instrumentation*
  • Event-Related Potentials, P300 / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paraplegia / physiopathology
  • Paraplegia / rehabilitation
  • Quadriplegia / physiopathology
  • Quadriplegia / rehabilitation*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation
  • User-Computer Interface*