Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders


Date of this Version



Published in Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology 14:3 (2019), pp 241–249.

doi 10.1080/17483107.2018.1428369


Copyright © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


Purpose: We investigated how overt visual attention and oculomotor control influence successful use of a visual feedback brain-computer interface (BCI) for accessing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices in a heterogeneous population of individuals with profound neuromotor impairments. BCIs are often tested within a single patient population limiting generalization of results. This study focuses on examining individual sensory abilities with an eye toward possible interface adaptations to improve device performance.

Methods: Five individuals with a range of neuromotor disorders participated in four-choice BCI control task involving the steady state visually evoked potential. The BCI graphical interface was designed to simulate a commercial AAC device to examine whether an integrated device could be used successfully by individuals with neuromotor impairment.

Results: All participants were able to interact with the BCI and highest performance was found for participants able to employ an overt visual attention strategy. For participants with visual deficits to due to impaired oculomotor control, effective performance increased after accounting for mismatches between the graphical layout and participant visual capabilities.

Conclusion: As BCIs are translated from research environments to clinical applications, the assessment of BCI-related skills will help facilitate proper device selection and provide individuals who use BCI the greatest likelihood of immediate and long term communicative success. Overall, our results indicate that adaptations can be an effective strategy to reduce barriers and increase access to BCI technology. These efforts should be directed by comprehensive assessments for matching individuals to the most appropriate device to support their complex communication needs.