Identifying the attended speaker using electrocorticographic (ECoG) signals

K. V. Dijkstra, P. Brunner, A. Gunduz, W. Coon, A. L. Ritaccio, J. Farquhar, G. Schalk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


People affected by severe neuro-degenerative diseases (e.g., late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or locked-in syndrome) eventually lose all muscular control. Thus, they cannot use traditional assistive communication devices that depend on muscle control, or brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that depend on the ability to control gaze. While auditory and tactile BCIs can provide communication to such individuals, their use typically entails an artificial mapping between the stimulus and the communication intent. This makes these BCIs diffcult to learn and use. In this study, we investigated the use of selective auditory attention to natural speech as an avenue for BCI communication. In this approach, the user communicates by directing his/her attention to one of two simultaneously presented speakers. We used electrocorticographic (ECoG) signals in the gamma band (70–170 Hz) to infer the identity of the attended speaker, thereby removing the need to learn such an artificial mapping. Our results from 12 human subjects show that a single cortical location over superior temporal gyrus or premotor cortex is typically sufficient to identify the attended speaker within 10 s and with 77% accuracy (50% accuracy due to chance). These results lay the groundwork for future studies that may determine the real-time performance of BCIs based on selective auditory attention to speech.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-173
Number of pages13
JournalBrain-Computer Interfaces
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015


  • auditory attention
  • brain-computer interface (BCI)
  • cocktail party
  • electrocorticography (ECoG)


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