Optimizing the stimulus presentation paradigm design for the P300-based brain-computer interface using performance prediction.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


The role of a brain-computer interface (BCI) is to discern a user's intended message or action by extracting and decoding relevant information from brain signals. Stimulus-driven BCIs, such as the P300 speller, rely on detecting event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to a user attending to relevant or target stimulus events. However, this process is error-prone because the ERPs are embedded in noisy electroencephalography (EEG) data, representing a fundamental problem in communication of the uncertainty in the information that is received during noisy transmission. A BCI can be modeled as a noisy communication system and an information-theoretic approach can be exploited to design a stimulus presentation paradigm to maximize the information content that is presented to the user. However, previous methods that focused on designing error-correcting codes failed to provide significant performance improvements due to underestimating the effects of psycho-physiological factors on the P300 ERP elicitation process and a limited ability to predict online performance with their proposed methods. Maximizing the information rate favors the selection of stimulus presentation patterns with increased target presentation frequency, which exacerbates refractory effects and negatively impacts performance within the context of an oddball paradigm. An information-theoretic approach that seeks to understand the fundamental trade-off between information rate and reliability is desirable.


We developed a performance-based paradigm (PBP) by tuning specific parameters of the stimulus presentation paradigm to maximize performance while minimizing refractory effects. We used a probabilistic-based performance prediction method as an evaluation criterion to select a final configuration of the PBP.

Main results

With our PBP, we demonstrate statistically significant improvements in online performance, both in accuracy and spelling rate, compared to the conventional row-column paradigm.


By accounting for refractory effects, an information-theoretic approach can be exploited to significantly improve BCI performance across a wide range of performance levels.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Mainsah, BO; Reeves, G; Collins, LM; Throckmorton, CS

Published Date

  • August 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 14 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 046025 -

PubMed ID

  • 28548052

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6038809

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1741-2552

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1741-2560

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1088/1741-2552/aa7525


  • eng