Brain-Computer Music Interfacing (BCMI): From Basic Research to the Real World of Special Needs


  • Eduardo R. Miranda MSc, PhD
  • Wendy L. Magee PhD, NMT-F
  • John J. Wilson BEng, MSc
  • Joel Eaton BSc
  • Ramaswamy Palaniappan BE, MSc, PhD



This paper reports on the development of a proof-of-concept brain-computer music interfacing system (BCMI), which we built to be tested with a patient with Locked-in Syndrome at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, in London. The system uses the Steady State Visual Evoked Potential (SSVEP) method, whereby targets are presented to a user on a computer monitor representing actions available to perform with the system. Each target is encoded by a flashing visual pattern reversing at a unique frequency. In order to make a selection, the user must direct her gaze at the target corresponding to the action she would like to perform. The patient grasped the concept quickly and rapidly demonstrated her skill at controlling the system with minimal practice. She was able to vary the intensity of her gaze, thus changing the amplitude of her EEG and vary the consequent musical parameters. We have proved the concept that such a BCMI system is cost-effective to build, viable, and useful. However, ergonomic and design aspects of the system require further refinement in order to make it more practical for clinical usage. For instance, the system at present requires a therapist to place individual electrodes and calibrate a user’s response to each stimulus, which can be time consuming. A new version of the system will require just positioning of a headset and, due to advanced algorithms, will require no calibration.

Author Biographies

Eduardo R. Miranda, MSc, PhD

Eduardo R. Miranda, MSc, PhD, is Professor of Computer Music and Head of ICCMR, University of Plymouth, UK, and Visiting Research Fellow of Staatliche Institut fu ̈r Musikforschung, Berlin, Germany.

Wendy L. Magee, PhD, NMT-F

Wendy L. Magee, PhD, NMT-F, is International Fellow in Music Therapy at the Institute of Neuropalliative Rehabilitation, London.

John J. Wilson, BEng, MSc

John J. Wilson, BEng, MSc, is a PhD candidate at the University of Essex, funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Joel Eaton, BSc

Joel Eaton, BSc, is an independent composer and is currently a student in the MRes Computer Music programme at the University of Plymouth.

Ramaswamy Palaniappan, BE, MSc, PhD

Ramaswamy Palaniappan, BE, MSc, PhD, is Lecturer in Bio-signal Analysis, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex.



Full Length Articles