Using Brain-Computer Interface to improve learning skills for students with disabilities: a rapid review

Using Brain-Computer Interface to improve learning skills for students with disabilities: a rapid review

Achraf Othman

Research article Open access | Available online on: 19 October, 2022 | Last update: 28 November, 2022


Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) enables direct communication between the brain and an external device. BCI systems have become a popular area of study in recent years. These technologies can be utilized in various ways to assist people with disabilities and healthy individuals. Regarding substantial BCI advancements, we can say that these systems are on the verge of commercialization. This review has considered current trends in BCI research on inclusive education to assist students with disabilities in achieving improved learning outcomes for all students in an inclusive environment.

Keywords: Brain-computer interface, inclusive education, student with disabilities

Cite this paper: 

Othman, A. (2022). Using Brain-Computer Interface to improve learning skills for students with disabilities: a rapid review. Nafath, 7(21).


Over the past few decades, research on brain-computer interface (BCI) devices has become widespread. BCI enables a direct connection between the brain and an external device such as a computer, robot, neuro-prosthesis, exoskeleton, speech prosthesis, assistive technology, or wheelchair [1] [2]. Through several focus groups with persons with disabilities, we found an interest in using BCI technology to innovate new solutions and products [3]. These systems can be utilized for a variety of purposes. They are typically employed for clinical purposes but can also be used for entertainment, training, security, treatment, education, safety, communication, and control, among other applications [4][5]. Most BCI systems are separated into invasive and non-invasive approaches. The non-invasive technique is the most popular and most secure of these options. Even though numerous publications have been published and several actual applications have been developed, BCI systems still face numerous obstacles and restrictions.

Understanding how the brain functions to measure and interpret brain waves is crucial. The electrical and magnetic phenomena of neural function can be monitored during brain functioning. The most popular form of electrophysiological observation is electroencephalography [6], in which biosensors measure and record electrical signals generated by brain activity. Brain cells communicate by sending electrical impulses; the more impulses sent, the more electricity the brain generates. The pattern of this electrical activity can be measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG); these EEG data are often analyzed by a quantitative EEG (QEEG) approach, in which the frequency spectrum of the EEG signals is evaluated [7]. Figure 1 presents an overview of possible placement over the scalp to detect and monitor electrical impulses of brain activities [8].

Possible Electrode placement over the scalp
Figure 1. Possible Electrode placement over the scalp.

Taking an EEG requires sophisticated, expensive, extensive, and immobile equipment; however, technological advancements have enabled mobile EEG biosensor-based embedded devices for new applications, including entertainment, control devices, and education. In these applications, a BCI establishes the relationship between the EEG-observed brain activity and the generated function [9]. Advanced BCIs include biosensors and modern signal processing units, are less expensive and more portable due to their simple design, and are as accurate as clinical EEG equipment [10]. Table 1 presents a summary of different methods.

Table 1. Summary of neuroimaging methods.
Neuroimaging method Activity measured Direct/Indirect Measurement Temporal resolution Spatial resolution Risk Portability
EEG Electrical Direct ∼0.05 s ∼10 mm Non-invasive Portable
MEG Magnetic Direct ∼0.05 s ∼5 mm Non-invasive Non-portable
ECoG Electrical Direct ∼0.003 s ∼1 mm Invasive Portable
Intracortical neuron recording Electrical Direct ∼0.003 s ∼0.5 mm (LFP) Invasive Portable
∼0.1 mm (MUA)
∼0.05 mm (SUA)
fMRI Metabolic Indirect ∼1 s ∼1 mm Non-invasive Non-portable
NIRS Metabolic Indirect ∼1 s ∼5 mm Non-invasive Portable


Sample illustration: a model of bioelectric signals
Figure 2. Sample illustration: a model of bioelectric signals.

Education research demonstrates that active student participation facilitates acquiring and retaining new information more effectively than traditional lecture-based instruction [11]. Moreover, when this active engagement is group-based as opposed to individual-based, students’ problem-solving, written, and speaking skills, as well as their learning and cooperative skills [12].

Effective acquisition of practical engineering skills is possible through problem-based learning (PBL) [13], team-based learning [14], and project-based learning (PjBL) [15]. Engineering strongly emphasizes the ability to apply information in the real world.

BCI as an Assistive Technology

Significant advances have been made in the research of BCI control [16] [17]. It can be used in different use cases such as and not limited to:

  • Control of external devices, such as limbs prostheses [18]
  • Smart home environments [19]
  • Robots and Exoskeletons [20]
  • Robotic hand [21]
  • Hearing prostheses [22]
  • Wheelchairs [23]
  • Computer programs [24]
  • Virtual reality, avatars, and metaverse [25]
  • Virtual environment and smart cities [26]

BCI’s most important use is to give individuals intuitive control over overreaching and grasping movements using their paralyzed limbs [27]. Additional possible applications include communication [28]. One of the biggest challenges is restoring and replacing motor function or communication for people with physical disabilities.

BCI control in Educational and Serious Games

All kids rely heavily on play for their learning and growth. Both neurotypical and neurodiverse children gain more from engaging in activities that keep them interested, engaged, and offer embedded learning opportunities [29]. However, current BCI software focuses on basic, utility-driven applications, such as spelling grids and cursor movement. While valid, such applications are limited in their appeal for sustained use, particularly for young BCI users. Evidence suggests that enhancing engagement in BCI through gamified learning may result in a broader acceptance of the technology while aiding in the dissemination of BCI control schemes.[30]. A growing trend across BCI research endeavors reveals that more engaging. User-friendly activities may promote a variety of tangible boons in BCI use—both in short-term task learning and long-term BCI accuracy [31]. Therefore, there is an obvious need to support the development of more engaging, accessible BCI software that includes key play components in pediatric BCI.

BCI systems provide the new potential for both virtual plays (e.g., videogames and digital media) and physical play (e.g., manipulation of toy robots, cars, et cetera). Using the non-muscular properties of BCI, such technologies may enable previously excluded populations to explore and learn through play. BCI systems provide potential for both virtual play (e.g., videogames and digital media) and physical play (e.g., manipulation of toy robots, cars, et cetera). Using the non-muscular properties of BCI, such technologies may enable previously excluded populations to explore and learn through play. Previous research has demonstrated mediums as essential for continued learning and rehabilitation in children with disabilities. Advancements in BCI research furthering the interaction between BCI systems and play thus represent a promising untapped potential for pediatric BCI end-users.

The outcome of learning activities using BCI

BCI can play a vital role in closing the knowledge gap and improving educational skills in students with disabilities [32]. The primary learning outcomes of these courses are that students with disabilities can:

  • Classify systems based on their properties and understand and exploit the implications of linearity, time invariance, and stability;
  • Determine and use Fourier transforms and other signal analysis methods;
  • Understand the application of control methods, proportional–integral–differential algorithms, and properties of a control;
  • Understand and analyze the design implications and interconnections of physical and control systems;
  • Develop mathematical models for real physical and control systems and produce block diagram implementations of the mathematical models and control methods.

BCI can present an alternative technology to control and take online courses during crises [33].

Conclusion and future work

In general, BCI connects the brain and external devices. BCI is suitable for the improvement and facilitation of the life of everyone. BCIs can be used in many areas and inclusive education. Overall, findings show that BCI is a topic being closely studied by scientists worldwide. This study also demonstrates that BCI technology was commonly used for medical objectives. In education, BCI can be used in remote learning to control the computer for students with physical disabilities. The technology is still under development and can achieve excellent results with impact in the future.


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