Crosstalk disrupts the production of motor imagery brain signals in brain–computer interfaces

Abstract

Brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) target specific brain activity for neuropsychological rehabilitation, and also allow patients with motor disabilities to control mobility and communication devices. Motor imagery of single-handed actions is used in BCIs but many users cannot control the BCIs effectively, limiting applications in the health systems. Crosstalk is unintended brain activations that interfere with bimanual actions and could also occur during motor imagery. To test if crosstalk impaired BCI user performance, we recorded EEG in 46 participants while they imagined movements in four experimental conditions using motor imagery: left hand (L), right hand (R), tongue (T) and feet (F). Pairwise classification accuracies of the tasks were compared (LR, LF, LT, RF, RT, FT), using common spatio-spectral filters and linear discriminant analysis. We hypothesized that LR classification accuracy would be lower than every other combination that included a hand imagery due to crosstalk. As predicted, classification accuracy for LR (58%) was reliably the lowest. Interestingly, participants who showed poor LR classification also demonstrated at least one good TR, TL, FR or FL classification; and good LR classification was detected in 16% of the participants. For the first time, we showed that crosstalk occurred in motor imagery, and affected BCI performance negatively. Such effects are effector-sensitive regardless of the BCI methods used; and likely not apparent to the user or the BCI developer. This means that tasks choice is crucial when designing BCI. Critically, the effects of crosstalk appear mitigatable. We conclude that understanding crosstalk mitigation is important for improving BCI applicability.

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Funding

Dr Phoebe S.-H. Neo was supported by EEGSmart during the data collection phase of this study. She was supported by the Department of Psychology and the Department of Computer Science, University of Otago, during the preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Phoebe S.-H. Neo.

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Neo, P.SH., Mayne, T., Fu, X. et al. Crosstalk disrupts the production of motor imagery brain signals in brain–computer interfaces. Health Inf Sci Syst 9, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13755-021-00142-y

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Keywords

  • Rehabilitation
  • Motor imagery
  • BCI
  • EEG
  • Machine learning
  • Crosstalk