CS 525: Special Topics
Brain-Computer Interaction

Course Syllabus

Course: CS 525, Special Topics: Brain-Computer Interaction, Spring 2020
Location: Higgins Lab 154
Mondays & Thursdays 1-2:20

Professor: Erin Solovey
Email: esolovey   @   wpi.edu
Office: Fuller Laboratory B21
Office Hours: Posted on website


This course will explore the current state of brain sensing and its application to human-computer interaction research. We will read important research papers on relevant topics, including background on brain function, sensing technology, machine learning methods, and applications of brain-computer interfaces in various domains.

Coursework will involve reading and critiquing research papers each week, as well as leading 2-4 discussions of research papers, and writing a general audience blog post about a research paper. There will be a required project that you work on over the term, and the scope and focus of the project will vary, depending on the interests and backgrounds of the students in the class.

Goals and Objectives

This course aims for students to (1) obtain the background to conduct research in brain-computer interaction and human-computer interaction; (2) understand the literature in the field of brain sensing for human-computer interaction research; (2) understand the various tools used in brain sensing, with a focus on functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) research at WPI; (3) understand the steps required to use real-time brain sensing data as input to an interactive system; (4) understand the domains and contexts in which brain-computer interfaces may be effective; (5) understand the open questions and challenges in brain-computer interaction research today.

Students will practice research skills such as writing a technical paper, critically reading research papers, writing a general audience article, and giving technical presentations.


Classes will consist of student presentations and discussions on recent research on brain sensing and human-computer interaction on various topics, including:


There is no required textbook for this course; We will mainly be reading recent research articles.


Assignments will focus on skills needed to conduct research in brain-computer interfaces and human-computer interaction. Each week, there will be 2-4 assigned papers to read. It is expected that students will read the papers and be prepared to discuss in class. To solidify understanding and for practice in critical reading, paper critiques will be required for several papers, which will be due 24 hours before class. In addition, students will lead the discussion of 2-4 papers throughout the semester and write general audience blog posts about research papers.


You'll be choosing a research project and writing a term paper. You'll turn in a draft of your project paper a few weeks before the end of the semester. Part of your project grade will be based on the quality of this draft. You'll then update your paper based on my feedback and that from your fellow students. 55% of this grade will be on your final paper, 20% will be based on your draft, 10% will be based on your proposal, and 15% will be based on your in-class presentation. If there are two people on your project, you will be given a longer time for your presentation and each person should do half. I will describe this process in more detail, and how to go about finding a project.

Exams & Quizzes

There will be no exams or quizzes.


All aspects of this course are important for developing an understanding of and appreciation for brain-computer interaction. The grading breakdown will be as follows:

Assignments turned in up to one day late incur a 50% penalty; assignments turned in more than one day late cannot be accepted and receive a score of 0.

All aspects of this course are important for developing an understanding of and appreciation for brain-computer interaction.

The following final grades are possible: A, B, C, D, F.

If there is a numerical error when computing your final grade from raw scores, please email and we will fix the numerical error.

Regrade requests

After receiving a grade on an assignment, you have one week to request a grade change. After the one week period, you may ask questions about the grade, but your grade will not be changed. If you believe there is an error in your assignment or exam grading, submit an explanation in writing to your grader. This explanation should list the score that you think is most accurate for each rubric item, and explain why that score is more accurate than the one you received. Note that they regrade the entire assignment. This may mean that you will receive a lower grade than before, and you cannot appeal again for another re-grade.


We will primarily use Slack for communication. Make sure that you have joined the class workspace. Please post all questions and comments in the main channels as you may get a quick response from a classmate. In addition, you are encouraged to respond to comments when you can assist a classmate. If you have a private question, you can send a direct message to the professor. The instructor will also disseminate important announcements by email through the course mailing list via Canvas, and also post these announcements on Canvas. Also, Canvas contains a timeline with links to all information (lecture slides, assignments, etc.) relevant to the course.