Adaptive transfer learning for EEG motor imagery classification with deep Convolutional Neural Network

Kaishuo Zhang, Neethu Robinson, Seong Whan Lee, Cuntai Guan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, deep learning has emerged as a powerful tool for developing Brain–Computer Interface (BCI) systems. However, for deep learning models trained entirely on the data from a specific individual, the performance increase has only been marginal owing to the limited availability of subject-specific data. To overcome this, many transfer-based approaches have been proposed, in which deep networks are trained using pre-existing data from other subjects and evaluated on new target subjects. This mode of transfer learning however faces the challenge of substantial inter-subject variability in brain data. Addressing this, in this paper, we propose 5 schemes for adaptation of a deep convolutional neural network (CNN) based electroencephalography (EEG)-BCI system for decoding hand motor imagery (MI). Each scheme fine-tunes an extensively trained, pre-trained model and adapt it to enhance the evaluation performance on a target subject. We report the highest subject-independent performance with an average (N=54) accuracy of 84.19% (±9.98%) for two-class motor imagery, while the best accuracy on this dataset is 74.15% (±15.83%) in the literature. Further, we obtain a statistically significant improvement (p=0.005) in classification using the proposed adaptation schemes compared to the baseline subject-independent model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalNeural Networks
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr


  • Brain–computer interface (BCI)
  • Convolutional Neural Network (CNN)
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Transfer learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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