Many people with severe disabilities lack any motor function and rely on others to do just about everything on their behalf. Yet, their brains are often just fine and being able to tap into the organ’s electrical activity can lead to tools that allow these patients to gain back functionality. Researchers at University of Malta have developed an EEG-based system that detects steady state visually evoked potentials (SSVEPs) in response to the user looking at flashing buttons on a screen, and that allows the user to control a music player.
SSVEPs are electrical signals produced by the brain in response to the flashing of lights at certain frequencies. A computer screen positioned in front of a human volunteer displays a number of squares, each flashing at different frequencies. By focusing on the flashing of one of the squares, which stands for one of the buttons on a music player, the user would generate a specific SSVEP which the EEG would pick up. By detecting which SSVEP was generated, the system activates the relevant music player button. The technology can certainly be easily converted to operate just about any other device besides a music player, including televisions, powered wheelchairs, and anything else that normally uses buttons as an interface.