Correct block-design experiments mitigate temporal correlation bias in EEG classification

Simone Palazzo, Concetto Spampinato, Joseph Schmidt, Isaak Kavasidis, Daniela Giordano, Mubarak Shah

It is argued in [1] that [2] was able to classify EEG responses to visual stimuli solely because of the temporal correlation that exists in all EEG data and the use of a block design. We here show that the main claim in [1] is drastically overstated and their other analyses are seriously flawed by wrong methodological choices. To validate our counter-claims, we evaluate the performance of state-of-the-art methods on the dataset in [2] reaching about 50% classification accuracy over 40 classes, lower than in [2], but still significant. We then investigate the influence of EEG temporal correlation on classification accuracy by testing the same models in two additional experimental settings: one that replicates [1]'s rapid-design experiment, and another one that examines the data between blocks while subjects are shown a blank screen. In both cases, classification accuracy is at or near chance, in contrast to what [1] reports, indicating a negligible contribution of temporal correlation to classification accuracy. We, instead, are able to replicate the results in [1] only when intentionally contaminating our data by inducing a temporal correlation. This suggests that what Li et al. [1] demonstrate is that their data are strongly contaminated by temporal correlation and low signal-to-noise ratio. We argue that the reason why Li et al. [1] observe such high correlation in EEG data is their unconventional experimental design and settings that violate the basic cognitive neuroscience design recommendations, first and foremost the one of limiting the experiments' duration, as instead done in [2]. Our analyses in this paper refute the claims of the "perils and pitfalls of block-design" in [1]. Finally, we conclude the paper by examining a number of other oversimplistic statements, inconsistencies, misinterpretation of machine learning concepts, speculations and misleading claims in [1].

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