Our Research

Research Overview

Brain-computer interface (BCI) technology is an exciting and upcoming field, with vast potential as an access technology for people with disabilities.  However, to date there has been very little research investigating BCI technology for one of the key user groups - children. Our research is centered around adapting brain-computer interface technology for pediatric users, especially for those with neurological disabilities. We are seeking to answer fundamental questions such as how and why BCIs work for children, how to adapt different common paradigms, training methods, and applications, and how to optimize signal processing algorithms for pediatric users. 

In parallel with these technical questions, we are seeking to transition BCI technology out of the laboratory and into a clinical environment. With this part of our research, we are investigating how to adapt BCI for long-term use, how children learn how to use BCI technology and progress over time, and how BCI can best be implemented to increase interaction, independence and control for the children we work with.

Our research group is a unique collaboration, bringing together researchers with backgrounds in neuroscience, engineering, medicine and rehabilitation sciences. We are proud to work with a variety of other researchers within the University of Calgary and Alberta Children's hospital, as well as with groups at the University of Alberta, University of Toronto, and the NCAN Centre in Albany, New York.


Current Projects

Expand the menu items below to learn more about some of our current research projects. 

Project Lead(s): Dion Kelly

In order to develop brain-computer interface applications for children with neurological disabilities, it is essential that we understand and characterize how neurotypical children can use common BCI systems. In this study, a large sample of typically developing children will undergo a series of the most common BCI paradigms, including  P300, motor imagery, and SSVEP paradigms. This study will allow us to identify key differences, challenges, limitations and considerations with pediatric BCI compared to what is known for the adult population, and serve as a baseline from which we can measure BCI performance of children with neurological disabilities.

Relevant Publications:

Evaluating If Children Can Use Simple Brain Computer Interfaces.

Project Lead(s): Erica Floreani & Danette Rowley

The ability to move independently and explore the environment contributes significantly to development. Children with physical disabilities are often not able to move on their own, remaining passive observers of their environment and relying on caregivers to move them from place to place. Power mobility devices like powered wheelchairs can give these children the ability to move independently. We are exploring if BCI can be used as a technology to access and 'drive' power mobility devices for children with severe physical impairments who may have had limited success with more common access methods like joysticks or switches.

Project Lead(s): Eli Kinney-Lang & Dion Kelly

Every child has the right to play, and for many children, the 'play' involves gaming - video games, online games, board games, etc. However, for the children we work with, traditional video game controllers are highly inaccessible, and even if using alternative access technologies like adaptive controllers or switches, many video games are not designed to be accessible. We are very interested to see how BCI can be used to access video games, how games can best be designed to be controlled using BCI, and how gamification of BCI paradigms can increase motivation and stimulate BCI skill development in children. In 2019, we hosted the first ever BCI Game Jam, where we had game developers across North America get together to create some BCI-enabled video games, which were then tested and judged by the kids in our BCI program. Now, we are conducting an online multiplayer gaming study, where kids in the program can play video games against each other or against other family members using BCI online.

Relevant Publications:

A Child's Right to Play: Results from the Brain-Computer Interface Game Jam 2019 (Calgary Competition).

Designing a flexible tool for rapid implementation of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) in game development.

Project Lead(s): Dion Kelly & Erica Floreani

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 brought an unfortunate pause to in-person sessions for our BCI4Kids Program. In order to keep our kids involved and engaged during the pandemic, we transitioned to piloting an at-home version of the program. Bringing BCI into the home has been a long-time goal of many BCI researchers. Our pilot home program has been very successful, and we are now expanding the program into a full research study. Bringing BCI into the home has involved designing family-friendly software, equipment packages, training documentation and set up guides, data collection methods, and implementing a variety of motivational and progress tracking tools. Successful use of BCI in the home will be an essential step towards long-term, widespread use of BCIs people's daily lives and we are excited to see where this research focus takes us.

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Contact Us

 

Reach out to us for more information on the BCI4Kids Program or our research: 

Email: kirtonlabcalgary@gmail.com

Twitter: @BCI4kids

Address: Alberta Children's Hospital

28 Oki Dr NW

Calgary AB, Canada

 

We are a part of the Calgary Pediatric Stroke Program:

CPSP Website