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In Frontiers in human neuroscience ; h5-index 79.0

Convolutional neural networks (CNNs), which automatically learn features from raw data to approximate functions, are being increasingly applied to the end-to-end analysis of electroencephalographic (EEG) signals, especially for decoding brain states in brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). Nevertheless, CNNs introduce a large number of trainable parameters, may require long training times, and lack in interpretability of learned features. The aim of this study is to propose a CNN design for P300 decoding with emphasis on its lightweight design while guaranteeing high performance, on the effects of different training strategies, and on the use of post-hoc techniques to explain network decisions. The proposed design, named MS-EEGNet, learned temporal features in two different timescales (i.e., multi-scale, MS) in an efficient and optimized (in terms of trainable parameters) way, and was validated on three P300 datasets. The CNN was trained using different strategies (within-participant and within-session, within-participant and cross-session, leave-one-subject-out, transfer learning) and was compared with several state-of-the-art (SOA) algorithms. Furthermore, variants of the baseline MS-EEGNet were analyzed to evaluate the impact of different hyper-parameters on performance. Lastly, saliency maps were used to derive representations of the relevant spatio-temporal features that drove CNN decisions. MS-EEGNet was the lightest CNN compared with the tested SOA CNNs, despite its multiple timescales, and significantly outperformed the SOA algorithms. Post-hoc hyper-parameter analysis confirmed the benefits of the innovative aspects of MS-EEGNet. Furthermore, MS-EEGNet did benefit from transfer learning, especially using a low number of training examples, suggesting that the proposed approach could be used in BCIs to accurately decode the P300 event while reducing calibration times. Representations derived from the saliency maps matched the P300 spatio-temporal distribution, further validating the proposed decoding approach. This study, by specifically addressing the aspects of lightweight design, transfer learning, and interpretability, can contribute to advance the development of deep learning algorithms for P300-based BCIs.

Borra Davide, Fantozzi Silvia, Magosso Elisa


P300, brain-computer interfaces, convolutional neural networks, decision explanation, electroencephalography, transfer learning