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Challenges and opportunities in creating synergy between AAC and brain-computer interfaces

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The development of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) for communication has made tremendous strides internationally within the past decade. The technology now can acquire and process various brain signals, and interpret intent from the signals. Much of the work has been accomplished outside of the clinical realm, addressing engineering and computer science challenges. It is now time to include clinical AAC issues so that this new assistive technology will meet the needs of the individuals who might benefit most from it.

In September, 2015, 18 AAC experts, engineers and neuroscientists participated in a webinar, sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Our goal was to begin a conversation to create synergy between BCIs and the field of augmentative and alternative communication. We identified six categories of challenges that must be addressed internationally, by professionals in many different fields, including individuals with complex communication needs and their family members or carers. These categories are: defining the population of potential BCI users; implementing user-centered design principles; conducting multidisciplinary collaboration; improving BCI hardware and software technologies; planning for technology transfer and clinical implementation; reducing obstacles for future BCI research and development.

The purposes of this workshop are to further elucidate the challenges and opportunities that currently exist for BCI-AAC synergy, and to engage the international AAC community in this discussion. Our goal is expand multidisciplinary collaboration and produce a publishable agenda so that BCI research and development is valid, reliable, and meaningful for individuals with complex communication needs.


Melanie Fried-Oken    
United States

Hochberg Leigh    
Massachusetts General Hospital/Brown University/Providence VAMC
United States

Jane Huggins    
University of Michigan
United States

Mary Ann Romski    
Georgia State University
United States

Theresa Vaughan    
Wadsworth Center
United States


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