Concurrent control of a brain-computer interface and natural overt movements

L. Bashford, J. Wu, D. Sarma, K. Collins, R. P.N. Rao, J. G. Ojemann, C. Mehring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective. A primary control signal in brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have been cortical signals related to movement. However, in cases where natural motor function remains, BCI control signals may interfere with other possibly simultaneous activity for useful ongoing movement. We sought to determine if the brain could learn to control both a BCI and concurrent overt movement execution in such cases. Approach. We designed experiments where BCI and overt movements must be used concurrently and in coordination to achieve a 2D centre out control. Power in the 70-90 Hz band of human electrocorticography (ECoG) signals, was used to generate BCI control commands for vertical movement of the cursor. These signals were deliberately recorded from the same human cortical site that produced the strongest movement related activity associated with the concurrent overt finger movements required for the horizontal movement of the cursor. Main results. We demonstrate that three subjects were able to perform the concurrent BCI task, controlling BCI and natural movements simultaneously and to a large extent independently. We conclude that the brain is capable of dissociating the original control signal dependency on movement, producing specific BCI control signals in the presence of motor related responses from the ongoing overt behaviour with which the BCI signal was initially correlated. Significance. We demonstrate a novel human brain-computer interface (BCI) which can be used to control movement concurrently and in coordination with movements of the natural limbs. This demonstrates the dissociation of cortical activity from the behaviour with which it was originally associated despite the ongoing behaviour and shows the feasibility of achieving simultaneous BCI control of devices with natural movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number066021
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 10 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • brain-computer interface
  • brain-machine interface
  • human electrocorticography
  • motor control
  • motor learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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