Date of Award

Fall 12-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computational and Data Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Uri Maoz

Second Advisor

Erik Linstead

Third Advisor

Aaron Schurger


In recent years, machine learning algorithms have been developing rapidly, becoming increasingly powerful tools in decoding physiological and neural signals. The aim of this dissertation is to develop computational tools, and especially machine learning techniques, to identify the most effective methods for feature extraction and classification of these signals. This is particularly challenging due to the highly non-linear, non-stationery, and artifact- and noise-prone nature of these signals.

Among basic human-control tasks, reaching and grasping are ubiquitous in everyday life. I investigated different linear and non-linear dimensionality reduction techniques for feature extraction and classification of electromyography (EMG) during a reach-grasp-lift task. The results highlighted the advantages of completely automated feature-learning by Laplacian Eigenmaps over manual feature engineering, especially when combined with classification, to achieve high accuracy with few training samples. The ability to decode and reduce the complexity of EMG could enable new practical applications for EMG in basic science and in the clinic. It could also help design humanoid and other robots.

Beyond EMG, a key objective of my dissertation was to decode brain activity during the decision-making processes that lead to voluntary action. This was based on electroencephalography (EEG) and holds the promise for improved brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), particularly related to motor imagery (MI). We developed an end-to-end convolutional neural network with attentional mechanism together with different data augmentation techniques on two benchmark MI datasets. I also collected a new dataset, recorded using high-density EEG, and containing both MI and motor execution (ME) tasks. This enabled us to directly compare the decodability of MI and ME, investigate optimal channel configurations, and much more. In particular, this facilitates the analysis and decoding of MI on the fly—online and in in real time.

Another potential use of EEG is measuring brain activity of people who are floating in body-temperature water in a sensory-deprivation-tank float pod. We compared lying in the float pod versus lying in bed (a control condition). And we found differences between the two, especially in the gamma band. More research is required to understand what these findings mean for levels of stress in the float pod.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Friday, December 01, 2023