Spatial filter selection for EEG-based communication

Dennis J. McFarland, Lynn M. McCane, Stephen V. David, Jonathan R. Wolpaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

693 Scopus citations


Individuals can learn to control the amplitude of mu-rhythm activity in the EEG recorded over sensorimotor cortex and use it to move a cursor to a target on a video screen. The speed and accuracy of cursor movement depend on the consistency of the control signal and on the signal-to-noise ratio achieved by the spatial and temporal filtering methods that extract the activity prior to its translation into cursor movement. The present study compared alternative spatial filtering methods. Sixty-four channel EEG data collected while well-trained subjects were moving the cursor to targets at the top or bottom edge of a video screen were analyzed offline by four different spatial filters, namely a standard ear-reference, a common average reference (CAR), a small Laplacian (3 cm to set of surrounding electrodes) and a large Laplacian (6 cm to set of surrounding electrodes). The CAR and large Laplacian methods proved best able to distinguish between top and bottom targets. They were significantly superior to the ear-reference method. The difference in performance between the large Laplacian and small Laplacian methods presumably indicated that the former was better matched to the topographical extent of the EEG control signal. The results as a whole demonstrate the importance of proper spatial filter selection for maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio and thereby improving the speed and accuracy of EEG-based communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-394
Number of pages9
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Assistive communication
  • Electroencephalography
  • Mu rhythm
  • Operant conditioning
  • Prosthesis
  • Rehabilitation
  • Sensorimotor cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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