User experience may be producing greater heart rate variability than motor imagery related control tasks during the user-system adaptation in brain-computer interfaces
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© 2016 Alonso-Valerdi, Gutiérrez-Begovich, Argüello-García, Sepulveda and Ramírez-Mendoza.Brain-computer interface (BCI) is technology that is developing fast, but it remains inaccurate, unreliable and slow due to the difficulty to obtain precise information from the brain. Consequently, the involvement of other biosignals to decode the user control tasks has risen in importance. A traditional way to operate a BCI system is via motor imagery (MI) tasks. As imaginary movements activate similar cortical structures and vegetative mechanisms as a voluntary movement does, heart rate variability (HRV) has been proposed as a parameter to improve the detection of MI related control tasks. However, HR is very susceptible to body needs and environmental demands, and as BCI systems require high levels of attention, perceptual processing and mental workload, it is important to assess the practical effectiveness of HRV. The present study aimed to determine if brain and heart electrical signals (HRV) are modulated by MI activity used to control a BCI system, or if HRV is modulated by the user perceptions and responses that result from the operation of a BCI system (i.e., user experience). For this purpose, a database of 11 participants who were exposed to eight different situations was used. The sensory-cognitive load (intake and rejection tasks) was controlled in those situations. Two electrophysiological signals were utilized: electroencephalography and electrocardiography. From those biosignals, event-related (de-)synchronization maps and event-related HR changes were respectively estimated. The maps and the HR changes were cross-correlated in order to verify if both biosignals were modulated due to MI activity. The results suggest that HR varies according to the experience undergone by the user in a BCI working environment, and not because of the MI activity used to operate the system.