Mirror Neurons as a Potential Confounder in Thought-Based Device Control Using Brain Computer Interfaces with fNIRS


Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) have so far been used primarily in the medical context. The question arises whether an interface between brain and user device could be established as an innovative technology in everyday life and which potential disruptive factors would have to be taken into account. The investigations conducted for this paper intend to show whether the mirror neuron effect is a confounding factor for BCI with fNIRS as a means of thought-based device control for people with uninhibited motor skills. A further aim was to gain insights into whether there is a difference in the mirror neuron effect between looking at a stranger and looking at oneself while performing a waving movement. The conducted research showed that the subjects’ reactions to a seen movement were stronger than the reactions to an imagined movement. Thus, the mirror neuron effect represents a confounding factor for thought-based device control via fNIRS. Furthermore, no significant difference was found between the responses to a stranger waving and the subjects themselves carrying out the motion. Although the subjects’ reactions to seeing themselves were slightly increased, the available data does not allow for definite conclusions in this matter.

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