Polychromatic SSVEP stimuli with subtle flickering adapted to brain-display interactions

Yu Yi Chien, Fang Cheng Lin*, John K. Zao, Ching Chi Chou, Yi-Pai Huang, Heng Yuan Kuo, Yijun Wang, Tzyy Ping Jung, Han Ping D. Shieh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Objective. Interactive displays armed with natural user interfaces (NUIs) will likely lead the next breakthrough in consumer electronics, and brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are often regarded as the ultimate NUI-enabling machines to respond to human emotions and mental states. Steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) are a commonly used BCI modality due to the ease of detection and high information transfer rates. However, the presence of flickering stimuli may cause user discomfort and can even induce migraines and seizures. With the aim of designing visual stimuli that can be embedded into video images, this study developed a novel approach to induce detectable SSVEPs using a composition of red/green/blue flickering lights. Approach. Based on the opponent theory of colour vision, this study used 32 Hz/40 Hz rectangular red-green or red-blue LED light pulses with a 50% duty cycle, balanced/equal luminance and 0°/180° phase shifts as the stimulating light sources and tested their efficacy in producing SSVEP responses with high signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) while reducing the perceived flickering sensation. Main results. The empirical results from ten healthy subjects showed that dual-colour lights flickering at 32 Hz/40 Hz with a 50% duty cycle and 180° phase shift achieved a greater than 90% detection accuracy with little or no flickering sensation. Significance. As a first step in developing an embedded SSVEP stimulus in commercial displays, this study provides a foundation for developing a combination of three primary colour flickering backlights with adjustable luminance proportions to create a subtle flickering polychromatic light that can elicit SSVEPs at the basic flickering frequency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number016018
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • brain-computer interface
  • canonical correlation analysis
  • interactive display systems
  • polychromatic
  • steady-state visual evoked potentials
  • subtle flickering
  • visual stimuli

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