The Mind-Writing Pupil : A Human-Computer Interface Based on Decoding of Covert Attention through Pupillometry


  • Mathôt Sebastiaan
  • Melmi Jean-Baptiste
  • Linden Lotje
  • Stigchel Stefan


  • Pilot studies
  • Pupil
  • Vigilance psychology
  • Attention
  • Eye movements
  • Man-computer interface
  • Eyes
  • Electroencephalography

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We present a new human-computer interface that is based on decoding of attention through pupillometry. Our method builds on the recent finding that covert visual attention affects the pupillary light response: Your pupil constricts when you covertly (without looking at it) attend to a bright, compared to a dark, stimulus. In our method, participants covertly attend to one of several letters with oscillating brightness. Pupil size reflects the brightness of the selected letter, which allows us-with high accuracy and in real time-to determine which letter the participant intends to select. The performance of our method is comparable to the best covert-attention brain-computer interfaces to date, and has several advantages: no movement other than pupil-size change is required; no physical contact is required (i.e. no electrodes); it is easy to use; and it is reliable. Potential applications include: communication with totally locked-in patients, training of sustained attention, and ultra-secure password input.

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