Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

What are the possibilities of mind control?

Available BCI applications can be divided into two main categories. The first and most important category is the medical domain. Indeed, the main objective of BCI is to serve disabled people with a new communication and control channel. The second category is the non-medical domain, for instance by designing video games based on BCI.

Some of the applications possible with current BCIs are described below.

Personal communication

This group of applications comprises the spelling of text, composing and sending emails and letters. If a patient has generalised paralysis, their only way of communication without a BCI (if any) is with the help of a caregiver or note-taker. Introducing BCI-based communication devices enables the patient to send confidential messages that provides a great amount of independence and self-determination.

Environmental control and control of assistive robots

Opening the front door to visitors, turning lights on or off, controlling shades, regulating the room temperature, changing the backrest position as well as controlling an assistive robot are examples for this group of applications (Xiaorong Gao et al., 2003). Their use increases independence and decreases the workload of caregivers.

Rehabilitation training

Recently, motor imagery-based BCI has been proposed as a rehabilitation tool to facilitate motor recovery in stroke (Pfurtscheller et al., 2008). Motor imagery is a mental process in which a subject imagines that they are performing a movement. Several studies have demonstrated that motor imagery (MI) has a positive effect on motor rehabilitation after a stroke through activation of the affected sensorimotor networks (Butler and Page, 2006). Since the performance of MI is internal to the subject, and thus not directly observable, BCI can facilitate the MI-based stroke rehabilitation by providing direct and immediate feedback on the MI performance.

Control of paralysed limbs

Using a BCI system can lead to the control of a limb orthosis or even allow for direct control of body parts via functional electrical stimulation (e.g. for bladder and swallow control or for paralysis due to different types of palsy) (Taylor, Tillery and Schwartz, 2002).


Mobility is likely to be of inherent interest for a paralysed patient. A straight-forward application of BCI is the control of electrical wheelchairs (Rebsamen et al., 2006). If classifiable signals can be reliably translated into control sequences for the wheelchair, the paralysed patient regains a certain degree of mobility.

Treatment for attention deficiency

BCI can quantify one’s attention level as measured by EEG waves, thereby allowing users to employ their attention to play some neurofeedback games (Lim et al., 2002). This new treatment provides a safe and interactive tool to guide and regulate the brain from the disorder. This treatment can be effectively used for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) without side effects that medication may cause.

Gaming and virtual reality

In addition to medical and rehabilitation applications, there is an increasing number of BCI applications for multimedia, such as for simple 2D video games to more advanced 3D video games. There are BCI systems used for navigating virtual worlds, and BCI systems used for selecting and/or manipulating virtual objects (Ahn et al., 2014).


Ahn, M., Lee, M., Choi, J. and Jun, S. (2014). A Review of Brain-Computer Interface Games and an Opinion Survey from Researchers, Developers and Users. Sensors, 14(8), pp.14601-14633.

Butler, A. and Page, S. (2006). Mental Practice With Motor Imagery: Evidence for Motor Recovery and Cortical Reorganization After Stroke. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 87(12), pp.2-11.

Lim, C. G., Lee, T. S., Guan, C., Fung, D., Cheung, Y. B., Wei Teng, S. S., Zhang, H., and Krishnan, R. R., (2010). Effectiveness of a brain-computer interface based programme for the treatment of ADHD: A pilot study. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, vol. 43, pp. 73–82.

Pfurtscheller, G., Muller-Putz, G., Scherer, R. and Neuper, C. (2008). Rehabilitation with Brain-Computer Interface Systems. Computer, 41(10), pp.58-65.

Rebsamen, B., Burdet, E., Guan, C., Zhang, H., Teo, C. L., Zeng, Q. , Ang Jr., M. H. and Laugier, C., (2006). A brain-controlled wheelchair based on P300 and path guidance, in The 1st IEEE Int. Conf. Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pp. 1101–6.

Taylor, D., Tillery, S. and Schwartz, A. (2002). Direct cortical control of 3D neuroprosthetic devices. Science, 296(5574), pp.1829-32.

Xiaorong Gao, Dingfeng Xu, Ming Cheng, and Shangkai Gao, (2003). A bci-based environmental controller for the motion-disabled. IEEE Trans. Neural Syst. Rehabil. Eng., 11(2), pp.137-140.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Building a Future with Robots

The University of Sheffield

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Contact FutureLearn for Support