I am working on Brain-Computer interfaces. In my project we try to control the movement of a robot in three directions, namely forward, right and left.

We have done an EEG experiment where we have asked subjects to imagine the movement of this robot to the wanted direction. For example, if the subject wanted to move the robot forward, he needed to imagine the robot was moving forward.

Is this type a motor imagery experiment? If not, what would the scientific word be that describes this type of experiment?

  • $\begingroup$ The term motor imagery is usually used to refer to imagined own movements, not imagined movements of some external object. The first term that comes to mind to describe what you describe is visual imagery. $\endgroup$
    – huh
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:54

2 Answers 2


As far as I know, brain-computer interfaces based on EEG use motor-cortex responses by asking the subject to imagine body movements. E.g., a left-arm movement imagination would translate to moving the robot to the left etc. In other words, imagining the robot going left will probably result in a diffuse, poor-defined brain response, while imagined motor movements are more useful. See a slide presentation here on this topic.


I agree with Christiaan. Similar movements are stored nearby and are thus difficult to distinguish (see How are movements stored in the brain? ), even more so with the spatial resolution of EEG. What I would like to add is that for imagery to be motor imagery, you have to imagine the movement in first person perspective. Imaging someone else to execute a movement will not show in the motor cortex. This is a nice paper showing result of novices using a new BCI.

BCIs go further than steering a Robot or a pointer on the screen (which can be achieved in a similar fashion). BCIs are also used for disabled peopled who cannot speak for instance. For this they have developed a P300 speller: a matrix of letters which one by one flicker at a high speed. Whenever the letter that you were thinking of highlights in the screen, a strong P300 can be recognized in an ERP. In this paper, multiple algorithms are compared for its accuracy.

A final way of BCI makes use of the frequency spectrum (see this paper for example). By focussing more or less, relaxing more or less etc, the power in the different frequency bands will vary. At our university we have a game called mind-ball, a very simple one-vs-one game where you have relax as much as possible (have high alpha and theta) to move a little ball to your opponents side of the table.


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