Effects of background music on objective and subjective performance measures in an auditory BCI

Sijie Zhou, Brendan Z. Allison, Andrea Kübler, Andrzej Cichocki, Xingyu Wang, Jing Jin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Several studies have explored brain computer interface (BCI) systems based on auditory stimuli, which could help patients with visual impairments. Usability and user satisfaction are important considerations in any BCI. Although background music can influence emotion and performance in other task environments, and many users may wish to listen to music while using a BCI, auditory, and other BCIs are typically studied without background music. Some work has explored the possibility of using polyphonic music in auditory BCI systems. However, this approach requires users with good musical skills, and has not been explored in online experiments. Our hypothesis was that an auditory BCI with background music would be preferred by subjects over a similar BCI without background music, without any difference in BCI performance. We introduce a simple paradigm (which does not require musical skill) using percussion instrument sound stimuli and background music, and evaluated it in both offline and online experiments. The result showed that subjects preferred the auditory BCI with background music. Different performance measures did not reveal any significant performance effect when comparing background music vs. no background. Since the addition of background music does not impair BCI performance but is preferred by users, auditory (and perhaps other) BCIs should consider including it. Our study also indicates that auditory BCIs can be effective even if the auditory channel is simultaneously otherwise engaged.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number105
    JournalFrontiers in Computational Neuroscience
    Issue numberOCT
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2016


    • Audio stimulus
    • Auditory
    • Brain computer interface
    • Event-related potentials
    • Music background


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