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Decoding of the speech envelope from EEG using the VLAAI deep neural network.
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
To investigate the processing of speech in the brain, commonly simple linear models are used to establish a relationship between brain signals and speech features. However, these linear models are ill-equipped to model a highly-dynamic, complex non-linear system like the brain, and they often require a substantial amount of subject-specific training data. This work introduces a novel speech decoder architecture: the Very Large Augmented Auditory Inference (VLAAI) network. The VLAAI network outperformed state-of-the-art subject-independent models (median Pearson correlation of 0.19, p < 0.001), yielding an increase over the well-established linear model by 52%. Using ablation techniques, we identified the relative importance of each part of the VLAAI network and found that the non-linear components and output context module influenced model performance the most (10% relative performance increase). Subsequently, the VLAAI network was evaluated on a holdout dataset of 26 subjects and a publicly available unseen dataset to test generalization for unseen subjects and stimuli. No significant difference was found between the default test and the holdout subjects, and between the default test set and the public dataset. The VLAAI network also significantly outperformed all baseline models on the public dataset. We evaluated the effect of training set size by training the VLAAI network on data from 1 up to 80 subjects and evaluated on 26 holdout subjects, revealing a relationship following a hyperbolic tangent function between the number of subjects in the training set and the performance on unseen subjects. Finally, the subject-independent VLAAI network was finetuned for 26 holdout subjects to obtain subject-specific VLAAI models. With 5 minutes of data or more, a significant performance improvement was found, up to 34% (from 0.18 to 0.25 median Pearson correlation) with regards to the subject-independent VLAAI network.