2023/03 Brain-machine interface based on transfer-learning for detecting the appearance of obstacles during exoskeleton-assisted walking



Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) attempt to establish communication between the user and the device to be controlled. BMIs have great challenges to face in order to design a robust control in the real field of application. The artifacts, high volume of training data, and non-stationarity of the signal of EEG-based interfaces are challenges that classical processing techniques do not solve, showing certain shortcomings in the real-time domain. Recent advances in deep-learning techniques open a window of opportunity to solve some of these problems. In this work, an interface able to detect the evoked potential that occurs when a person intends to stop due to the appearance of an unexpected obstacle has been developed.

Materials and methods:

First, the interface was tested on a treadmill with five subjects, in which the user stopped when an obstacle appeared (simulated by a laser). The analysis is based on two consecutive convolutional networks: the first one to discern the intention to stop against normal walking and the second one to correct false detections of the previous one.

Results and discussion:

The results were superior when using the methodology of the two consecutive networks vs. only the first one in a cross-validation pseudo-online analysis. The false positives per min (FP/min) decreased from 31.8 to 3.9 FP/min and the number of repetitions in which there were no false positives and true positives (TP) improved from 34.9% to 60.3% NOFP/TP. This methodology was tested in a closed-loop experiment with an exoskeleton, in which the brain-machine interface (BMI) detected an obstacle and sent the command to the exoskeleton to stop. This methodology was tested with three healthy subjects, and the online results were 3.8 FP/min and 49.3% NOFP/TP. To make this model feasible for non-able bodied patients with a reduced and manageable time frame, transfer-learning techniques were applied and validated in the previous tests, and were then applied to patients. The results for two incomplete Spinal Cord Injury (iSCI) patients were 37.9% NOFP/TP and 7.7 FP/min.