A brain-computer interface (BCI) offers an alternative method of communication and control for those who have suffered neuromuscular damage due to disease or injury. Motor imagery/movement imagination is used by a BCI user to modulate sensorimotor rhythms (SMRs) to relay intent to a computer or machine without movement. Motor imagery is a skill that can be learned by the user to enhance BCI control. Feedback perceived through our senses is critical to learning this control.
The role of feedback in user learning and its relevance for insight into the underlying mechanisms of BCI user-training is critical - this project will investigate and study new forms of feedback for BCI learning. The proposition that feedback is deﬁned by three main characteristics, i.e. its content, its modality of presentation and its timing, will be investigated through a range of state-of-the-art technologies installed at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre’s new Spatial Computing and Neurotechnology Innovation Hub (SCANi-hub). These include the latest augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies and vibrotactile interfaces. AR is a state-of-the-art method for presentation of vision and audio which allows for the overlay of virtual imagery and sounds onto a real-world environment and has been shown to increase both engagement and learning in new tasks . Using AR to present feedback can provide a more naturalist and intuitive method of feedback of imagined movement akin to how we experience the natural movement of a limb. This coupled with vibrotactile feedback using mechanical/ultrasound vibration can be used to enhance the sensation of the imagined movement of the virtual limb.
It has been shown that BCI performance is affected when varying the type of feedback presented, whether that is visual, auditory or vibrotactile, and that by combining feedback from multiple sensory channels increases BCI performance . A combination of AR feedback should further increase this performance. There are also several recent studies investigating the combination of BCI and AR, demonstrating an increasing interest in the field. Whereas visual feedback is typically presented using a computer monitor and audio presented in either mono or stereo using loudspeakers or headphones, this project will use video see-through on a head-mounted display in combination with spatialised audio and vibrotactile response.
A main field of application for the technology is in robotics and rehabilitation where AR BCI can enhance user experience. The project will involve the development of an AR BCI aimed at providing enhanced engagement and hence increasing performance for both healthy and disabled users. New experimental paradigms will be developed and trialled with human participants. Research questions will address what information should be delivered, and how and when the feedback should be provided.
 Dede, C., 2009. Immersive interfaces for engagement and learning. science, 323(5910), pp.66-69.
 Hinterberger, Thilo, Nicola Neumann, Mirko Pham, Andrea Kübler, Anke Grether, Nadine Hofmayer, Barbara Wilhelm, Herta Flor, and Niels Birbaumer. "A multimodal brain-based feedback and communication system." Experimental brain research 154, no. 4 (2004): 521-526.
If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.
The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:
Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies
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