University of Malta

Brain Controlled Music Player
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SSVEP-Based Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) System for Real-Time Application

Lead Investigator: Ms Rosanne Zerafa
Supervisor: Dr Tracey Camilleri, Dept. of Systems and Control Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
Co-Supervisor: Dr Owen Falzon, Centre for Biomedical Cybernetics


A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) gives a person the ability to communicate with and control a computer through his/her brain signals. The neurophysiological phenomena known as steady-state visually evoked potentials (SSVEPs) are electrical potentials evoked in the brain in response to visual stimuli. This neural response consists of oscillatory activity at the fundamental frequency and harmonics of the flickering visual stimulus. An SSVEP-based BCI exploits this response by presenting the user with stimuli flickering at specific frequencies, each associated with a particular command. The user selects one of these commands by focusing his/her attention on the corresponding stimulus. The BCI identifies the SSVEP response from electroencephalographic (EEG) signals and generates the corresponding control signal.


In this project a real-time SSVEP-based music player application was developed. This application works in an asynchronous mode, giving the user the flexibility of issuing a command independently of any cues. The system can distinguish up to six simultaneously occurring stimuli up to six simultaneously occurring stimuli and also detects periods during which the user does not want to execute a control signal, known as idle states, which is an essential element for the seamless integration of BCIs with other user activities. The BCI requires only two EEG channels over the visual cortex, thus having an easy and quick setup time. It autonomously learns subject-specific optimal parameters and is trained specifically for each user so that each obtains the best performance of the real-time BCI system. The user-friendly design of the music player application is based on typical smart phone application designs integrated with flickering stimuli that evoke SSVEPs. The user interface is not fixed as the user may switch between different menus. This demonstrates that a similar interface can be easily applied to various other assisted living applications for people suffering from motor impairments and even as an application for healthy users.

Publications & Awards

R. Zerafa, T. Camilleri, O. Falzon, and K. P. Camilleri, "A Real-Time SSVEP-Based Brain-Computer Interface Music Player Application", in IFMBE Proceedings, XIV Mediterranean Conference on Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing 2016, vol. 57, pp. 173-178, Springer International Publishing, 2016.

R. Zerafa, T. Camilleri, O. Falzon, K. P. Camilleri, “Comparison of Plain and Checkerboard Stimuli for Brain Computer Interfaces based on Steady State Visual Evoked Potentials”, in Proc. Neural Engineering (NER), 2013 6th International IEEE/EMBS Conference, 2013, pp. 33 - 36.

‘Brain-Controlled Music Player’ awarded second place for Scientific Innovation at the Malta Innovation Awards 2013 [Link]

‘Brain Controlled Music Player’ awarded the TAKEOFF Seed Fund Award 2014 [Link] [Link]

Other Links 

BCI research at the Dept. of Systems and Control Engineering [Link]

Engineering Today Issue 48, Pages 10-15: Design of a Brain-Controlled Music Player Application [Link]

Times of Malta: Local researchers build music player that reads brain activity of user [Link]

Independent: Maltese researchers build a mind-controlled music player [Link]

THINK Magazine Issue 03: Moving wheelchairs with your thoughts [Link]

RE-WORK Tech 2014 [Link]

Neurogadget: University of Malta researchers build music player that reads brain activity of user [Link]

TechEmergence: Engineers Build Brain-controlled Music Player [Link]

PSFK: Brain Wave-Reading Player Will Let People Control Spotify With Their Minds [Link]

Ubergizmo: Brain Waves Used To Control Music Player [Link]

DamnGeeky: Brain controlled music player [Link]

MedGadget: Reading Brain Waves to Control Music Player, Just About Anything Else [Link]

Netributor: Music Player Controlled by User’s Brain Activity [Link]

Robohub: Engineers build brain-controlled music player [Link]

SingularityHub- Researchers Show Off Mind-Controlled Music Player [Link]


Funding Award for BrainApp

CBC awarded research funding under the FUSION Technology Development Programme (TDP) 2017

New peer-reviewed journal article

CBC publishes in Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express

CBC attends EMBC 2017

Three Papers Accepted for Presentation at the Annual Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC 2017)

Research at UoM: Brain Computer Interface

Communicating using brain signals

Last Updated: 11 May 2017

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