Gert Pfurtscheller 1 , Brendan Z. Allison 1 , Clemens Brunner 1 , Gunther Bauernfeind 1 , Teodoro Solis-Escalante 1 , Reinhold Scherer 2 , Thorsten O. Zander 3 , Gernot Mueller-Putz 1 , Christa Neuper 1 , Niels Birbaumer 4 , 5
21 April 2010
Nowadays, everybody knows what a hybrid car is. A hybrid car normally has two engines to enhance energy efficiency and reduce CO2 output. Similarly, a hybrid brain-computer interface (BCI) is composed of two BCIs, or at least one BCI and another system. A hybrid BCI, like any BCI, must fulfill the following four criteria: (i) the device must rely on signals recorded directly from the brain; (ii) there must be at least one recordable brain signal that the user can intentionally modulate to effect goal-directed behaviour; (iii) real time processing; and (iv) the user must obtain feedback. This paper introduces hybrid BCIs that have already been published or are in development. We also introduce concepts for future work. We describe BCIs that classify two EEG patterns: one is the event-related (de)synchronisation (ERD, ERS) of sensorimotor rhythms, and the other is the steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP). Hybrid BCIs can either process their inputs simultaneously, or operate two systems sequentially, where the first system can act as a “brain switch”. For example, we describe a hybrid BCI that simultaneously combines ERD and SSVEP BCIs. We also describe a sequential hybrid BCI, in which subjects could use a brain switch to control an SSVEP-based hand orthosis. Subjects who used this hybrid BCI exhibited about half the false positives encountered while using the SSVEP BCI alone. A brain switch can also rely on hemodynamic changes measured through near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Hybrid BCIs can also use one brain signal and a different type of input. This additional input can be an electrophysiological signal such as the heart rate, or a signal from an external device such as an eye tracking system.