Power of the mind

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) is co-ordinating a project called Adaptive Brain Interfaces (ABI) as part of European Union Information Technologies ESPRIT programme.

The main aim of the programme is to extend the capabilities of physically impaired people to access new services and opportunities provided by today’s information society.

Based at the JRC’s Institute for Systems, Informatics and Safety, the ABI project has developed a portable brain-computer interface based on the analysis of the five mental states from on-line spontaneous electroencephalogram (EEG) signals.

The ABI project makes it possible for people to interact with computer-based systems through conscious control of their thoughts after a short training period.

A cap with a few integrated electrodes acquires brain signals that are pre-processed and sent to a notebook for further analysis, biofeedback and completion of the task required.

It does so by analysing continuous variations of EEG rhythms over several cortical areas of the brain and each mental task is associated to a simple command.

By composing command sequences – or thoughts – the user can read a web page, interact with games, turn on appliances, or even guide a wheelchair.

The neural network learns user-specific EEG patterns that describe the mental tasks desired, while the user learns to think in a manner that enables the personal interface to better understand them.

Since the user and his or her personal ABI learn simultaneously from each other, people with no previous experience with brain interfaces can master use of the system quite rapidly.

More on the web at http://sta.jrc.it/sba/esprit/abi-esprit.htm