Improving motor imagery classification during induced motor perturbations

J Neural Eng. 2021 Jul 21;18(4). doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/ac123f.


Objective.Motor imagery is the mental simulation of movements. It is a common paradigm to design brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that elicits the modulation of brain oscillatory activity similar to real, passive and induced movements. In this study, we used peripheral stimulation to provoke movements of one limb during the performance of motor imagery tasks. Unlike other works, in which induced movements are used to support the BCI operation, our goal was to test and improve the robustness of motor imagery based BCI systems to perturbations caused by artificially generated movements.Approach.We performed a BCI session with ten participants who carried out motor imagery of three limbs. In some of the trials, one of the arms was moved by neuromuscular stimulation. We analysed 2-class motor imagery classifications with and without movement perturbations. We investigated the performance decrease produced by these disturbances and designed different computational strategies to attenuate the observed classification accuracy drop.Main results.When the movement was induced in a limb not coincident with the motor imagery classes, extracting oscillatory sources of the movement imagination tasks resulted in BCI performance being similar to the control (undisturbed) condition; when the movement was induced in a limb also involved in the motor imagery tasks, the performance drop was significantly alleviated by spatially filtering out the neural noise caused by the stimulation. We also show that the loss of BCI accuracy was accompanied by weaker power of the sensorimotor rhythm. Importantly, this residual power could be used to predict whether a BCI user will perform with sufficient accuracy under the movement disturbances.Significance.We provide methods to ameliorate and even eliminate motor related afferent disturbances during the performance of motor imagery tasks. This can help improving the reliability of current motor imagery based BCI systems.

Keywords: afferent signals; brain-computer interfacing; feedback contingency; induced movements; motor disturbances; motor imagery; neuro-muscular electrical stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain-Computer Interfaces*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy
  • Imagination
  • Movement
  • Reproducibility of Results