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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45771. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045771. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

Revealing topological organization of human brain functional networks with resting-state functional near infrared spectroscopy.

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State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, People's Republic of China.



The human brain is a highly complex system that can be represented as a structurally interconnected and functionally synchronized network, which assures both the segregation and integration of information processing. Recent studies have demonstrated that a variety of neuroimaging and neurophysiological techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion MRI and electroencephalography/magnetoencephalography can be employed to explore the topological organization of human brain networks. However, little is known about whether functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), a relatively new optical imaging technology, can be used to map functional connectome of the human brain and reveal meaningful and reproducible topological characteristics.


We utilized resting-state fNIRS (R-fNIRS) to investigate the topological organization of human brain functional networks in 15 healthy adults. Brain networks were constructed by thresholding the temporal correlation matrices of 46 channels and analyzed using graph-theory approaches. We found that the functional brain network derived from R-fNIRS data had efficient small-world properties, significant hierarchical modular structure and highly connected hubs. These results were highly reproducible both across participants and over time and were consistent with previous findings based on other functional imaging techniques.


Our results confirmed the feasibility and validity of using graph-theory approaches in conjunction with optical imaging techniques to explore the topological organization of human brain networks. These results may expand a methodological framework for utilizing fNIRS to study functional network changes that occur in association with development, aging and neurological and psychiatric disorders.

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