Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Eric W. Sellers

Committee Members

Matthew McBee, Matthew Palmatier, Shannon Ross-Sheehy, Jill Stinson


The effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic-lateral sclerosis (ALS) eventually render those suffering from the illness unable to communicate, leaving their cognitive function relatively unharmed and causing them to be “locked-in” to their own body. With this primary function compromised there has been an increased need for assistive communication methods such as brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). Unlike several augmentative or alternative communication methods (AACs), BCIs do not require any muscular control, which makes this method ideal for people with ALS. The wealth of BCI research focuses mainly on increasing BCI performance through improving stimulus processing and manipulating paradigms. Recent research has suggested a need for studies focused on harnessing psychological qualities of BCI users, such as motivation, mood, emotion, and depression, in order to increase BCI performance through working with the user. The present studies address important issues related to P300-BCI performance: 1) the impact of mood, emotion, motivation, and depression on BCI performance were examined independently; and 2) pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral emotions were induced in order to determine the influence of emotion on BCI performance. By exploring psychological mechanisms that influence BCI performance, further insight can be gained on the best methods for improving BCI performance and increasing the number of potential BCI users. The results from Study 1 did not reveal a significant relationship between any of the four psychological factors and BCI performance. Since previous research has found a significant impact of motivation and mood on BCI performance, it may be the case that these factors only impact performance for some individuals. As this is the first study to directly investigate the impact of emotion and depression on BCI performance, future research should continue to explore these relationships. The results from Study 2 were inconclusive for the pleasant condition, since it appears the pleasant emotion manipulation was unsuccessful. The findings indicate that unpleasant emotions do not have a significant impact on BCI performance. This result is promising since it indicates that individuals should still be able to use the BCI system to communicate, even when they are experiencing unpleasant emotions. Future research should further explore the impact of pleasant emotions on BCI performance.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.