Towards passive brain-computer interfaces: applying brain-computer interface technology to human-machine systems in general

J Neural Eng. 2011 Apr;8(2):025005. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/8/2/025005. Epub 2011 Mar 24.


Cognitive monitoring is an approach utilizing realtime brain signal decoding (RBSD) for gaining information on the ongoing cognitive user state. In recent decades this approach has brought valuable insight into the cognition of an interacting human. Automated RBSD can be used to set up a brain-computer interface (BCI) providing a novel input modality for technical systems solely based on brain activity. In BCIs the user usually sends voluntary and directed commands to control the connected computer system or to communicate through it. In this paper we propose an extension of this approach by fusing BCI technology with cognitive monitoring, providing valuable information about the users' intentions, situational interpretations and emotional states to the technical system. We call this approach passive BCI. In the following we give an overview of studies which utilize passive BCI, as well as other novel types of applications resulting from BCI technology. We especially focus on applications for healthy users, and the specific requirements and demands of this user group. Since the presented approach of combining cognitive monitoring with BCI technology is very similar to the concept of BCIs itself we propose a unifying categorization of BCI-based applications, including the novel approach of passive BCI.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biofeedback, Psychology / methods*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / trends*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / trends*
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Man-Machine Systems*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • User-Computer Interface*