Distinguishing difficulty levels with non-invasive brain activity measurements

Audrey Girouard, Erin Treacy Solovey, Leanne M. Hirshfield, Krysta Chauncey, Angelo Sassaroli, Sergio Fantini, Robert J.K. Jacob

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemConference contribution

43 Scopus citations


Passive brain-computer interfaces are designed to use brain activity as an additional input, allowing the adaptation of the interface in real time according to the user's mental state. The goal of the present study is to distinguish between different levels of game difficulty using non-invasive brain activity measurement with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The study is designed to lead to adaptive interfaces that respond to the user's brain activity in real time. Nine subjects played two levels of the game Pacman while their brain activity was measured using fNIRS. Statistical analysis and machine learning classification results show that we can discriminate well between subjects playing or resting, and distinguish between the two levels of difficulty with some success. In contrast to most previous fNIRS studies which only distinguish brain activity from rest, we attempt to tell apart two levels of brain activity, and our results show potential for using fNIRS in an adaptive game or user interface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHuman-Computer Interaction - INTERACT 2009 - 12th IFIP TC 13 International Conference, Proceedings
Number of pages13
EditionPART 1
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes
Event12th IFIP TC 13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, INTERACT 2009 - Uppsala, Sweden
Duration: Aug 24 2009Aug 28 2009

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
NumberPART 1
Volume5726 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Other12th IFIP TC 13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, INTERACT 2009


  • Brain-computer interface
  • Difficulty level
  • Functional near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Game
  • Human cognition
  • Task classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


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