People can learn to control mu (8-12 Hz) or beta (18-25 Hz) rhythm amplitude in the electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded over sensorimotor cortex and use it to move a cursor to a target on a video screen. The recorded signal may also contain electromyogram (EMG) and other non-EEG artifacts. This study examines the presence and characteristics of EMG contamination during new users' initial brain-computer interface (BCI) training sessions, as they first attempt to acquire control over mu or beta rhythm amplitude and to use that control to move a cursor to a target.
In the standard one-dimensional format, a target appears along the right edge of the screen and 1s later the cursor appears in the middle of the left edge and moves across the screen at a fixed rate with its vertical movement controlled by a linear function of mu or beta rhythm amplitude. In the basic two-choice version, the target occupies the upper or lower half of the right edge. The user's task is to move the cursor vertically so that it hits the target when it reaches the right edge. The present data comprise the first 10 sessions of BCI training from each of 7 users. Their data were selected to illustrate the variations seen in EMG contamination across users.
Five of the 7 users learned to change rhythm amplitude appropriately, so that the cursor hit the target. Three of these 5 showed no evidence of EMG contamination. In the other two of these 5, EMG was prominent in early sessions, and tended to be associated with errors rather than with hits. As EEG control improved over the 10 sessions, this EMG contamination disappeared. In the remaining two users, who never acquired actual EEG control, EMG was prominent in initial sessions and tended to move the cursor to the target. This EMG contamination was still detectable by Session 10.
EMG contamination arising from cranial muscles is often present early in BCI training and gradually wanes. In those users who eventually acquire EEG control, early target-related EMG contamination may be most prominent for unsuccessful trials, and may reflect user frustration. In those users who never acquire EEG control, EMG may initially serve to move the cursor toward the target. Careful and comprehensive topographical and spectral analyses throughout user training are essential for detecting EMG contamination and differentiating between cursor control provided by EEG control and cursor control provided by EMG contamination.
Artifacts such as EMG are common in EEG recordings. Comprehensive spectral and topographical analyses are necessary to detect them and ensure that they do not masquerade as, or interfere with acquisition of, actual EEG-based cursor control.