First of all, sorry if this is the wrong place to ask this question, please redirect me if it is so.

I have a project in mind involving and EEG, which is the following :

Using a "consumer-grade" EEG (see this one, for example) I would like to be able to control a binary system with my mind (for example, turning a led on and off). From what I've seen until now, this seems to be possible since the headset is able to detect eye blinks, for example. It also gives access to two variables "focus" and "relaxation", which you can learn to control somewhat accurately (accurately enough for a binary system, at least).

Now here's my problem. While the methods that I described above do work, they would also continuously activate even when I don't want them to. Everytime I blink, my led would turn on, even though my intention wasn't to turn the led on. Everytime the "focus" level goes over 50/100, the led would turn on, even though I'm just focusing on my physics problem.

Having said that, I was wondering if it is possible to pick up more subtle and "controlled" information on the EEG. One thing I was thinking about is, if I think and visualise the color red, maybe that could cause a signal that can be picked up ?(Of course the led would activate when I look at something red, but that's still an improvement) Or even looking at the led I want to turn on, would that have any discernable effect on the EEG ? My guess is that those "thoughts" are way to subtle to be picked up by an EEG, which is just an average of the brain activity, but I'm not an expert on the subject !

So I guess my question is : what are the "kind" of thoughts that I can somewhat reliably see on the EEG data ? For example, I know I can reliably pick up a eye-blink. Are there any thoughts that are not related to muscle movement that can also be reliably read on a EEG ?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, although this is an interesting question there is way more to this than you are probably realizing. Like, this is the sort of thing people write entire theses on. You really just need to read scientific papers about this sort of thing, there's no quick fix for EEG processing from the perspective of biology. It's an interesting question but I am voting to close as too broad. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    May 17, 2018 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ If there are papers discussing this, that would be great if you could suggest some ! If you want I could change my question to be less broad : what I really am interested in is if I can control a binary system with my mind, so I really need to know if it is possible to detect a binary signature of something in my mind, that isn't related to any muscle movement. I do understand your point of view though, and if it gets closed, so be it ! $\endgroup$
    – Frotaur
    May 17, 2018 at 16:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=brain+machine+interface $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    May 17, 2018 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ You can add "EEG" or "binary" to limit to EEG studies of binary detection. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    May 17, 2018 at 16:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It is certainly feasible if your device is decent enough (not sure about the model you linked to). You either need to select a frequency range or a component of the event related potential. According to the first paper I linked to, you could imagine making a movement towards the target. Just don't expect 100% accuracy. $\endgroup$
    – vkehayas
    May 18, 2018 at 21:05

1 Answer 1


Short answer
The key word in EEG-driven mind control is brain-computer interface (BCI). In contrast, eye blinks can simply be detected with an eye tracker.

As far as I know, EEG-driven computer control (The force is strong in you) is based on recording the EEG while thinking of certain actions, or simply doing them. As you likely understand by now, thinking of moving your arm activates much of the same brain circuitry as actually making the move, up until the pre-motor cortex. The motor cortex itself stays silent (otherwise you would actually make the move (Griggs, 2013).

So EEG correlates of motor activity can be translated into digitized electrical brain activity. In turn, these brain waves can be put to use from playing pong by mind force, to state-of-the-art applications like driving artificial (bionic) limbs for the lame. By using artificial neural networks / deep learning techniques / and multiple EEG electrodes, the combined activity can be registered of many brain regions and certain signatures may pop out and be trained for a computer to learn them. In tun, that can be used to, say, play a computer game.

For a commercial alternative, delivered with an SDK, check out (Pogue, 2012):

- Griggs, New Scientist, January 2013
- Pogue, Sci Am, December 2012)


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