On the use of peripheral autonomic signals for binary control of body–machine interfaces
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In this work, the potential of using peripheral autonomic (PA) responses as control signals for body-machine interfaces that require no physical movement was investigated. Electrodermal activity, skin temperature, heart rate and respiration rate were collected from six participants and hidden Markov models (HMMs) were used to automatically detect when a subject was performing music imagery as opposed to being at rest. Experiments were performed under controlled silent conditions as well as in the presence of continuous and startle (e.g. door slamming) ambient noise. By developing subject-specific HMMs, music imagery was detected under silent conditions with the average sensitivity and specificity of 94.2% and 93.3%, respectively. In the presence of startle noise stimuli, the system sensitivity and specificity levels of 78.8% and 80.2% were attained, respectively. In environments corrupted by continuous ambient and startle noise, the system specificity further decreased to 75.9%. To improve the system robustness against environmental noise, a startle noise detection and compensation strategy were proposed. Once in place, performance levels were shown to be comparable to those observed in silence. The obtained results suggest that PA signals, combined with HMMs, can be useful tools for the development of body-machine interfaces that allow individuals with severe motor impairments to communicate and/or to interact with their environment.
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