IMR Press / JIN / Volume 20 / Issue 4 / DOI: 10.31083/j.jin2004083
Open Access Original Research
Deep learning-based EEG analysis: investigating P3 ERP components
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1 Department of Electrical, Electronic and Information Engineering “Guglielmo Marconi” (DEI), University of Bologna, Cesena Campus, 47522 Cesena, Italy
2 Alma Mater Research Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, University of Bologna, 40126 Bologna, Italy
3 Interdepartmental Center for Industrial Research on Health Sciences & Technologies, University of Bologna, 40126 Bologna, Italy
*Correspondence: (Davide Borra)
These authors contributed equally.
J. Integr. Neurosci. 2021, 20(4), 791–811;
Submitted: 28 May 2021 | Revised: 7 July 2021 | Accepted: 19 July 2021 | Published: 30 December 2021
Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by IMR Press.
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license (

The neural processing of incoming stimuli can be analysed from the electroencephalogram (EEG) through event-related potentials (ERPs). The P3 component is largely investigated as it represents an important psychophysiological marker of psychiatric disorders. This is composed by several subcomponents, such as P3a and P3b, reflecting distinct but interrelated sensory and cognitive processes of incoming stimuli. Due to the low EEG signal-to-noise-ratio, ERPs emerge only after an averaging procedure across trials and subjects. Thus, this canonical ERP analysis lacks in the ability to highlight EEG neural signatures at the level of single-subject and single-trial. In this study, a deep learning-based workflow is investigated to enhance EEG neural signatures related to P3 subcomponents already at single-subject and at single-trial level. This was based on the combination of a convolutional neural network (CNN) with an explanation technique (ET). The CNN was trained using two different strategies to produce saliency representations enhancing signatures shared across subjects or more specific for each subject and trial. Cross-subject saliency representations matched the signatures already emerging from ERPs, i.e., P3a and P3b-related activity within 350–400 ms (frontal sites) and 400–650 ms (parietal sites) post-stimulus, validating the CNN+ET respect to canonical ERP analysis. Single-subject and single-trial saliency representations enhanced P3 signatures already at the single-trial scale, while EEG-derived representations at single-subject and single-trial level provided no or only mildly evident signatures. Empowering the analysis of P3 modulations at single-subject and at single-trial level, CNN+ET could be useful to provide insights about neural processes linking sensory stimulation, cognition and behaviour.

Convolutional neural networks
Decision explanation
Fig. 1.
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