Effects of user mental state on EEG-BCI performance

Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 Jun 2;9:308. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00308. eCollection 2015.


Changes in psychological state have been proposed as a cause of variation in brain-computer interface performance, but little formal analysis has been conducted to support this hypothesis. In this study, we investigated the effects of three mental states-fatigue, frustration, and attention-on BCI performance. Twelve able-bodied participants were trained to use a two-class EEG-BCI based on the performance of user-specific mental tasks. Following training, participants completed three testing sessions, during which they used the BCI to play a simple maze navigation game while periodically reporting their perceived levels of fatigue, frustration, and attention. Statistical analysis indicated that there is a significant relationship between frustration and BCI performance while the relationship between fatigue and BCI performance approached significance. BCI performance was 7% lower than average when self-reported fatigue was low and 7% higher than average when self-reported frustration was moderate. A multivariate analysis of mental state revealed the presence of contiguous regions in mental state space where BCI performance was more accurate than average, suggesting the importance of moderate fatigue for achieving effortless focus on BCI control, frustration as a potential motivating factor, and attention as a compensatory mechanism to increasing frustration. Finally, a visual analysis showed the sensitivity of underlying class distributions to changes in mental state. Collectively, these results indicate that mental state is closely related to BCI performance, encouraging future development of psychologically adaptive BCIs.

Keywords: EEG; attention; brain-computer interface; fatigue; frustration; user mental state.