Introduction: Brain-Computer Interfaces for Artistic Expression

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Capturing brain activity and translating it into multisensorial artistic expressions has been done by artists since the late sixties and early seventies of the previous century. At that time there were only very limited ways to acquire, process, manipulate and transform brain activity. No computing power, no pattern recognition, no machine learning, no graphics, no friendly user interfaces. The results of the transformations were usually presented visually, for example, on an oscilloscope, or auditorily using loudspeakers. In subsequent decades, brain-computer interfacing became a well-established research area that focused on applications in the clinical domain; in particular, applications that aimed at restoring and enhancing communication for the motor-impaired and for rehabilitation purposes. In more recent decades, due to progress in neuroscience, signal processing, and machine learning and progress in sensor technology, we see a growing interest in research and development that aims at clinical and nonclinical users that can use brain-computer interfaces for communication and control in real-life domestic, entertaining, and artistic brain-computer interfaces. This introductory chapter provides some general background on brain-computer interfaces. It mentions some standard paradigms, it provides some historical context and it presents some observations on brain-computer interfacing for artistic expression since the early seventies of the previous century. Currently, there is a market for inexpensive electroencephalographic (EEG) devices and software kits that capture voluntarily and involuntarily evoked brain activity and have this activity translated into control and communication commands for environments and devices. We also see a renewed interest of artists to make use of such devices to design interactive artistic installations that have knowledge of the brain activity of an individual user or the collective brain activity of a group of users, for example, an audience. This chapter provides some background on brain-computer interface technology that can be helpful for understanding the chapters that appear in this book and this chapter provides some context to the developments that are reported and foreseen in this book’s chapters.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBrain Art
Subtitle of host publicationBrain-Computer Interfaces for Artistic Expression
EditorsAnton Nijholt
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-14323-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-14322-0
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2019


  • Artistic brain-computer interfaces
  • Brain-Computer Interaction
  • Multimodal interactions
  • Entertainment computing
  • EEG


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