The N400 for brain computer interfacing: Complexities and opportunities
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SourceJournal of Neural Engineering, 17, 2, (2020), article 022001
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC AI
Journal of Neural Engineering
SubjectCognitive artificial intelligence
The N400 is an Event Related Potential that is evoked in response to conceptually meaningful stimuli. It is for instance more negative in response to incongruent than congruent words in a sentence, and more negative for unrelated than related words following a prime word. This sensitivity to semantic content of a stimulus in relation to the mental context of an individual makes it a signal of interest for Brain Computer Interfaces. A complicating aspect is the number of factors that can affect the N400 amplitude. In this paper, we provide an accessible overview of this range of N400 effects, and survey the three main BCI application areas that currently exploit the N400: (1) exploiting the semantic processing of faces to enhance matrix speller performance, (2) detecting language processing in patients with Disorders of Consciousness, and (3) using semantic stimuli to probe what is on a user's mind. Drawing on studies from these application areas, we illustrate that the N400 can successfully be exploited for BCI purposes, but that the signal-to-noise ratio is a limiting factor, with signal strength also varying strongly across subjects. Furthermore, we put findings in context of the general N400 literature, noting open questions and identifying opportunities for further research.
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