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Neuroimage. 2011 Feb 14;54(4):2808-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.10.069. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

A quantitative comparison of NIRS and fMRI across multiple cognitive tasks.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA. cuixu@stanford.edu

Abstract

Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is an increasingly popular technology for studying brain function. NIRS presents several advantages relative to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), such as measurement of concentration changes in both oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin, finer temporal resolution, and ease of administration, as well as disadvantages, most prominently inferior spatial resolution and decreased signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). While fMRI has become the gold standard for in vivo imaging of the human brain, in practice NIRS is a more convenient and less expensive technology than fMRI. It is therefore of interest to many researchers how NIRS compares to fMRI in studies of brain function. In the present study we scanned participants with simultaneous NIRS and fMRI on a battery of cognitive tasks, placing NIRS probes over both frontal and parietal brain regions. We performed detailed comparisons of the signals in both temporal and spatial domains. We found that NIRS signals have significantly weaker SNR, but are nonetheless often highly correlated with fMRI measurements. Both SNR and the distance between the scalp and the brain contributed to variability in the NIRS/fMRI correlations. In the spatial domain, we found that a photon path forming an ellipse between the NIRS emitter and detector correlated most strongly with the BOLD response. Taken together these findings suggest that, while NIRS can be an appropriate substitute for fMRI for studying brain activity related to cognitive tasks, care should be taken when designing studies with NIRS to ensure that: 1) the spatial resolution is adequate for answering the question of interest and 2) the design accounts for weaker SNR, especially in brain regions more distal from the scalp.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

PMID:
21047559
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3021967
Free PMC Article
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