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Multi-task Learning for Zero Training Brain-Computer Interfaces


Alamgir,  M
Department Empirical Inference, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

Grosse-Wentrup,  M
Department Empirical Inference, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

Altun,  Y
Department Empirical Inference, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Alamgir, M., Grosse-Wentrup, M., & Altun, Y. (2010). Multi-task Learning for Zero Training Brain-Computer Interfaces. Poster presented at 4th International BCI Meeting, Asilomar, CA, USA.

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Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are limited in their applicability in everyday settings by the current necessity to record subject-specific calibration data prior to actual use of the BCI for communication. In this work, we utilize the framework of multitask learning to construct a BCI that can be used without any subject-specific calibration process, i.e., with zero training data. In BCIs based on EEG or MEG, the predictive function of a subject's intention is commonly modeled as a linear combination of some features derived from spatial and spectral recordings. The coefficients of this combination correspond to the importance of the features for predicting the intention of the subject. These coefficients are usually learned separately for each subject due to inter-subject variability. Principle feature characteristics, however, are known to remain invariant across subject. For example, it is well known that in motor imagery paradigms spectral power in the mu- and beta frequency ranges (roughly 8-14 Hz and 20-30 Hz, respectively) over sensorimotor areas provides most information on a subject's intention. Based on this assumption, we define the intention prediction function as a combination of subject-invariant and subject-specific models, and propose a machine learning method that infers these models jointly using data from multiple subjects. This framework leads to an out-of-the-box intention predictor, where the subject-invariant model can be employed immediately for a subject with no prior data. We present a computationally efficient method to further improve this BCI to incorporate subject-specific variations as such data becomes available. To overcome the problem of high dimensional feature spaces in this context, we further present a new method for finding the relevance of different recording channels according to actions performed by subjects. Usually, the BCI feature representation is a concatenation of spectral features extracted from different channels. This representation, however, is redundant, as recording channels at different spatial locations typically measure overlapping sources within the brain due to volume conduction. We address this problem by assuming that the relevance of different spectral bands is invariant across channels, while learning different weights for each recording electrode. This framework allows us to significantly reduce the feature space dimensionality without discarding potentially useful information. Furthermore, the resulting out-of-the-box BCI can be adapted to different experimental setups, for example EEG caps with different numbers of channels, as long as there exists a mapping across channels in different setups. We demonstrate the feasibility of our approach on a set of experimental EEG data recorded during a standard two-class motor imagery paradigm from a total of ten healthy subjects. Specifically, we show that satisfactory classification results can be achieved with zero training data, and that combining prior recordings with subject-specific calibration data substantially outperforms using subject-specific data only.