A review of classification algorithms for EEG-based brain-computer interfaces: a 10 year update

J Neural Eng. 2018 Jun;15(3):031005. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/aab2f2. Epub 2018 Feb 28.


Objective: Most current electroencephalography (EEG)-based brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are based on machine learning algorithms. There is a large diversity of classifier types that are used in this field, as described in our 2007 review paper. Now, approximately ten years after this review publication, many new algorithms have been developed and tested to classify EEG signals in BCIs. The time is therefore ripe for an updated review of EEG classification algorithms for BCIs.

Approach: We surveyed the BCI and machine learning literature from 2007 to 2017 to identify the new classification approaches that have been investigated to design BCIs. We synthesize these studies in order to present such algorithms, to report how they were used for BCIs, what were the outcomes, and to identify their pros and cons.

Main results: We found that the recently designed classification algorithms for EEG-based BCIs can be divided into four main categories: adaptive classifiers, matrix and tensor classifiers, transfer learning and deep learning, plus a few other miscellaneous classifiers. Among these, adaptive classifiers were demonstrated to be generally superior to static ones, even with unsupervised adaptation. Transfer learning can also prove useful although the benefits of transfer learning remain unpredictable. Riemannian geometry-based methods have reached state-of-the-art performances on multiple BCI problems and deserve to be explored more thoroughly, along with tensor-based methods. Shrinkage linear discriminant analysis and random forests also appear particularly useful for small training samples settings. On the other hand, deep learning methods have not yet shown convincing improvement over state-of-the-art BCI methods.

Significance: This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the modern classification algorithms used in EEG-based BCIs, presents the principles of these methods and guidelines on when and how to use them. It also identifies a number of challenges to further advance EEG classification in BCI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces / trends*
  • Deep Learning / trends
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Electroencephalography / trends*
  • Humans
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Time Factors