Conscious perception of brain states: Mental strategies for brain-computer communication

Nicola Neumann, Andrea Kübler, Jochen Kaiser, Thilo Hinterberger, Niels Birbaumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Direct brain-computer communication utilises self-regulation of brain potentials to select letters, words or symbols from a computer menu. In this study a completely paralysed (locked-in) patient learnt to produce slow cortical potential (SCP) shifts to operate a binary spelling device. After hundreds of training sessions he gave a detailed description of his mental strategies for self-regulation. His cognitive strategies matched with the electrocortical changes perfectly. Thus he produced a contingent negative variation (CNV) with images of preparation such as an arrow being drawn on a bow. To produce a positive potential shift he imagined the arrow shooting up from the bow. To suppress potential shifts he tried to stop thinking. The study demonstrates that patients become sensitive for their brain states with increasing self-regulation practice. The use of conscious cognitive strategies may, however, be incompatible with the complete automatization of the self-regulation skill.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1028-1036
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Brain-computer communication
  • Contingent negative variation
  • Mental imagery
  • Neurofeedback
  • Slow cortical potentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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