How the BCI was set up at the home of two artists with ALS.
Simple home setup
Brain Painting records the cerebral activity from scalp electrodes and provides control and feedback over an interface. This system is referred to as a brain-computer Interface (BCI). It only requires two monitors, an electroencephalogram (EEG) and the use r's attention to use Brain Painting.
Figure of a user concentrating on the stimulation monitor (left). The neuronal activity is translated into commands on the canvas monitor (right)
The first monitor on the left displays visual stimulation on a matrix of icons to choose from. The other monitor display the virtual canvas on which the painting is visually applied.
JThiele using BP in his atelier
End-users, family and caregivers receive basic instructions to operate the system. After installation, there is no need for a BCI specialist on-site, as support can be provided through internet and phone meetings.
Typical BP session
The classical timeline of a BCI session is:
- Set up the EEG cap while and checking the EEG signals
- start BP
- ask the user to create a new painting or continue an existing painting
- start BCI2000 and BP canvas, automatically configured and ready to launch
- (after painting is finished) prompt the user feedback evaluation
- optional: save the painting in a picture format
- exit (automatic file synchronization follows)
The following video shows most of the steps of this timeline. In this recording we made when visiting the end-user on site, the family shows how they conduct BP sessions independently at home with the help of family and caregivers.
The following video describes the use of brain painting at home in a real situation (very first version of BP at home).
Transferring from the lab to a home environment
To take Brain Painting out of the lab and provide it to end-users at home, we had to think of a very specific design. Caregivers were not trained on the research grade BCI software, thus we needed to simplify any parameter to make the system as straight-forward to use as possible. We created a program (using Python) that allowed the automatization of certain tasks that we needed to guarantee: BCI parameterization, backup folder for paintings, evaluations, data logging and data synchronization.
Figure 5: Illustration of Brain Painting at home system. Blue arrows mean automated functions while green arrows describes user interactions. Red dotted line frames the Brain Painting system inside the home installation.
Being separated by several hundreds kilometers from our patient's home, we needed to guarantee a reliable way to retrieve the data stored on the Brain Painting computer. We ensured that at the end of every session, newly recorded data was saved to a secured remote server using the Secure Copy Protocol (SCP).
The second challenge was that we were not on site to change or fix the system. Even though we tried to handle most of the issues using automated functions, there were still some problems that required expert handling. In these cases, we established a remote desktop session, initiated by the caregivers/family, and can investigate problems and perform changes.