The present review systematically examines the literature reporting gaze independent interaction modalities in non-invasive brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) for communication. BCIs measure signals related to specific brain activity and translate them into device control signals. This technology can be used to provide users with severe motor disability (e.g. late stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); acquired brain injury) with an assistive device that does not rely on muscular contraction. Most of the studies on BCIs explored mental tasks and paradigms using visual modality. Considering that in ALS patients the oculomotor control can deteriorate and also other potential users could have impaired visual function, tactile and auditory modalities have been investigated over the past years to seek alternative BCI systems which are independent from vision. In addition, various attentional mechanisms, such as covert attention and feature-directed attention, have been investigated to develop gaze independent visual-based BCI paradigms. Three areas of research were considered in the present review: (i) auditory BCIs, (ii) tactile BCIs and (iii) independent visual BCIs. Out of a total of 130 search results, 34 articles were selected on the basis of pre-defined exclusion criteria. Thirteen articles dealt with independent visual BCIs, 15 reported on auditory BCIs and the last six on tactile BCIs, respectively. From the review of the available literature, it can be concluded that a crucial point is represented by the trade-off between BCI systems/paradigms with high accuracy and speed, but highly demanding in terms of attention and memory load, and systems requiring lower cognitive effort but with a limited amount of communicable information. These issues should be considered as priorities to be explored in future studies to meet users' requirements in a real-life scenario. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.
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