Objective: Recent reports indicate that making better assumptions about the user's intended movement can improve the accuracy of decoder calibration for intracortical brain-computer interfaces. Several methods now exist for estimating user intent, including an optimal feedback control model, a piecewise-linear feedback control model, ReFIT, and other heuristics. Which of these methods yields the best decoding performance?
Methods: Using data from the BrainGate2 pilot clinical trial, we measured how a steady-state velocity Kalman filter decoder was affected by the choice of intention estimation method. We examined three separate components of the Kalman filter: dimensionality reduction, temporal smoothing, and output gain (speed scaling).
Results: The decoder's dimensionality reduction properties were largely unaffected by the intention estimation method. Decoded velocity vectors differed by <5% in terms of angular error and speed vs. target distance curves across methods. In contrast, the smoothing and gain properties of the decoder were greatly affected (> 50% difference in average values). Since the optimal gain and smoothing properties are task-specific (e.g. lower gains are better for smaller targets but worse for larger targets), no one method was better for all tasks.
Conclusion: Our results show that, when gain and smoothing differences are accounted for, current intention estimation methods yield nearly equivalent decoders and that simple models of user intent, such as a position error vector (target position minus cursor position), perform comparably to more elaborate models. Our results also highlight that simple differences in gain and smoothing properties have a large effect on online performance and can confound decoder comparisons.