MEG sensor selection for neural speech decoding

Debadatta Dash, Alan Wisler, Paul Ferrari, Elizabeth Moody Davenport, Joseph Maldjian, Jun Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Direct decoding of speech from the brain is a faster alternative to current electroencephalography (EEG) speller-based brain-computer interfaces (BCI) in providing communication assistance to locked-in patients. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) has recently shown great potential as a non-invasive neuroimaging modality for neural speech decoding, owing in part to its spatial selectivity over other high-temporal resolution devices. Standard MEG systems have a large number of cryogenically cooled channels/sensors (200 − 300) encapsulated within a fixed liquid helium dewar, precluding their use as wearable BCI devices. Fortunately, recently developed optically pumped magnetometers (OPM) do not require cryogens, and have the potential to be wearable and movable making them more suitable for BCI applications. This design is also modular allowing for customized montages to include only the sensors necessary for a particular task. As the number of sensors bears a heavy influence on the cost, size, and weight of MEG systems, minimizing the number of sensors is critical for designing practical MEG-based BCIs in the future. In this study, we sought to identify an optimal set of MEG channels to decode imagined and spoken phrases from the MEG signals. Using a forward selection algorithm with a support vector machine classifier we found that nine optimally located MEG gradiometers provided higher decoding accuracy compared to using all channels. Additionally, the forward selection algorithm achieved similar performance to dimensionality reduction using a stacked-sparse-autoencoder. Analysis of spatial dynamics of speech decoding suggested that both left and right hemisphere sensors contribute to speech decoding. Sensors approximately located near Broca’s area were found to be commonly contributing among the higher-ranked sensors across all subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182320-182337
Number of pages18
JournalIEEE Access
StatePublished - 2020


  • Autoencoder
  • Brain-computer interface
  • Forward selection algorithm
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Neural speech decoding
  • OPM
  • SVM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)


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