Single-trial classification of neural responses evoked in rapid serial visual presentation: Effects of stimulus onset asynchrony and stimulus repetition
Rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) tasks, in which participants are presented with a continuous sequence of images in one location, have been used in combination with electroencephalography (EEG) in a variety of Brain-Machine Interface (BMI) applications. The RSVP task is advantageous because it can be performed at a high temporal rate. The rate of the RSVP sequence is controlled by the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between subsequent stimuli. When used within the context of a BMI, an RSVP task with short SOA could increase the information throughput of the system while also allowing for stimulus repetitions. However, reducing the SOA also increases the perceptual degradation caused by presenting two stimuli in close succession, and it decreases the target-to-target interval (TTI), which can increase the cognitive demands of the task. These negative consequences of decreasing the SOA could affect on the EEG signal measured in the task and degrade the performance of the BMI. Here we systematically investigate the effects of SOA and stimulus repetition (r) on single-trial target detection in an RSVP task. Ten healthy volunteers participated in an RSVP task in four conditions that varied in SOA and repetitions (SOA=500 ms, r=1; SOA=250 ms, r=2; SOA=166 ms, r=3; and SOA=100 ms, r=5) while processing time across conditions was controlled. There were two key results: First, when controlling for the number of repetitions, single-trial performance increases when the SOA decreases. Second, when the repetitions were combined, the best performance (AUC=0.967) was obtained with the shortest SOA (100 ms). These results suggest that shortening the SOA in an RSVP task has the benefit of increasing the performance relative to longer SOAs, and it also allows a higher number of repetitions of the stimuli in a limited amount of time.