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Neuroimage. 2003 Apr;18(4):865-79.

Factors affecting the accuracy of near-infrared spectroscopy concentration calculations for focal changes in oxygenation parameters.

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  • 1Neural Systems Group, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) can be used to noninvasively measure changes in the concentrations of oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin in tissue. We have previously shown that while global changes can be reliably measured, focal changes can produce erroneous estimates of concentration changes (NeuroImage 13 (2001), 76). Here, we describe four separate sources for systematic error in the calculation of focal hemoglobin changes from NIRS data and use experimental methods and Monte Carlo simulations to examine the importance and mitigation methods of each. The sources of error are: (1). the absolute magnitudes and relative differences in pathlength factors as a function of wavelength, (2). the location and spatial extent of the absorption change with respect to the optical probe, (3). possible differences in the spatial distribution of hemoglobin species, and (4). the potential for simultaneous monitoring of multiple regions of activation. We found wavelength selection and optode placement to be important variables in minimizing such errors, and our findings indicate that appropriate experimental procedures could reduce each of these errors to a small fraction (<10%) of the observed concentration changes.

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