BCIs Are Not ‘Mind-Readers’ As speech-language pathologists and researchers in the brain-computer interface (BCI) field, we were disappointed to see BCI systems referred to as “‘mind-reading’ machines” on the ASHA Leader Blog (“Scientists Unveil New Communication Device for ‘Locked-In’ Patients,” Feb. 8, 2017). BCIs offer a potential new communication access method for people with ... Inbox
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Inbox  |   May 01, 2017
BCIs Are Not ‘Mind-Readers’
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Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / Language Disorders / Inbox
Inbox   |   May 01, 2017
BCIs Are Not ‘Mind-Readers’
The ASHA Leader, May 2017, Vol. 22, 4. doi:10.1044/leader.IN.22052017.4
The ASHA Leader, May 2017, Vol. 22, 4. doi:10.1044/leader.IN.22052017.4
As speech-language pathologists and researchers in the brain-computer interface (BCI) field, we were disappointed to see BCI systems referred to as “‘mind-reading’ machines” on the ASHA Leader Blog (“Scientists Unveil New Communication Device for ‘Locked-In’ Patients,” Feb. 8, 2017). BCIs offer a potential new communication access method for people with locked-in syndrome and other severe speech and physical impairments, but they do not read users’ minds or private thoughts. In fact, operating a BCI-based communication system is much like controlling a speech-generating device with a switch or joystick. The user exerts explicit control over the system by attending and responding to desired stimuli, or by consciously engaging in specific mental tasks to produce a detectable brain response. The use of sensational, misleading language such as “mind reading” may create unrealistic expectations for BCI among clinicians, potential users and other stakeholders. It may also stoke fears about privacy, if potential users believe that their private thoughts can be detected and shared without their consent.
As the BCI field continues to grow, and as BCIs become available for in-home use by individuals with communication impairments, scientific publications and news coverage on the topic are certain to increase. We hope ASHA Leader writers and editors will choose their wording more carefully in future articles about this exciting new technology.
Betts Peters, Melanie Fried-Oken, Aimee Mooney and Brandon Eddy, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland

Thank you for your feedback. The Leader will avoid the use of the term in the future. Our intention, by use of the quotation marks, was to use the term in a nonliteral manner.

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FROM THIS ISSUE
May 2017
Volume 22, Issue 5