Semantic classical conditioning and brain-computer interface control: Encoding of affirmative and negative thinking

Carolin A. Ruf, Daniele De Massari, Adrian Furdea, Tamara Matuz, Chiara Fioravanti, Linda Van Der Heiden, Sebastian Halder, Niels Birbaumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of the study was to investigate conditioned electroencephalography (EEG) responses to factually correct and incorrect statements in order to enable binary communication by means of a brain-computer interface (BCI). In two experiments with healthy participants true and false statements (serving as conditioned stimuli, CSs) were paired with two different tones which served as unconditioned stimuli (USs). The features of the USs were varied and tested for their effectiveness to elicit differentiable conditioned reactions (CRs). After acquisition of the CRs, these CRs to true and false statements were classified offline using a radial basis function kernel support vector machine. A mean single-trial classification accuracy of 50.5% was achieved for differentiating conditioned "yes" versus "no" thinking and mean accuracies of 65.4% for classification of "yes" and 68.8% for "no" thinking (both relative to baseline) were found using the best US. Analysis of the area under the curve of the conditioned EEG responses revealed significant differences between conditioned "yes" and "no" answers. Even though improvements are necessary, these first results indicate that the semantic conditioning paradigm could be a useful basis for further research regarding BCI communication in patients in the complete locked-in state.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 23
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue number7 MAR
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Auditory
  • Brain communication.
  • Brain-computer interface
  • Classical conditioning
  • EEG
  • Semantic conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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