Translating deep learning to neuroprosthetic control

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Apr 21:2023.04.21.537581. doi: 10.1101/2023.04.21.537581.


Advances in deep learning have given rise to neural network models of the relationship between movement and brain activity that appear to far outperform prior approaches. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that enable people with paralysis to control external devices, such as robotic arms or computer cursors, might stand to benefit greatly from these advances. We tested recurrent neural networks (RNNs) on a challenging nonlinear BCI problem: decoding continuous bimanual movement of two computer cursors. Surprisingly, we found that although RNNs appeared to perform well in offline settings, they did so by overfitting to the temporal structure of the training data and failed to generalize to real-time neuroprosthetic control. In response, we developed a method that alters the temporal structure of the training data by dilating/compressing it in time and re-ordering it, which we show helps RNNs successfully generalize to the online setting. With this method, we demonstrate that a person with paralysis can control two computer cursors simultaneously, far outperforming standard linear methods. Our results provide evidence that preventing models from overfitting to temporal structure in training data may, in principle, aid in translating deep learning advances to the BCI setting, unlocking improved performance for challenging applications.

Publication types

  • Preprint