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Neuroimage. 2013 Dec;83:158-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.06.043. Epub 2013 Jun 21.

A NIRS-fMRI investigation of prefrontal cortex activity during a working memory task.

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Hitachi, Ltd., Central Research Laboratory, Hatoyama, Saitama 350-0395, Japan. Electronic address:


Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is commonly used for studying human brain function. However, several studies have shown that superficial hemodynamic changes such as skin blood flow can affect the prefrontal NIRS hemoglobin (Hb) signals. To examine the criterion-related validity of prefrontal NIRS-Hb signals, we focused on the functional signals during a working memory (WM) task and investigated their similarity with blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signals simultaneously measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We also measured the skin blood flow with a laser Doppler flowmeter (LDF) at the same time to examine the effect of superficial hemodynamic changes on the NIRS-Hb signals. Correlation analysis demonstrated that temporal changes in the prefrontal NIRS-Hb signals in the activation area were significantly correlated with the BOLD signals in the gray matter rather than those in the soft tissue or the LDF signals. While care must be taken when comparing the NIRS-Hb signal with the extracranial BOLD or LDF signals, these results suggest that the NIRS-Hb signal mainly reflects hemodynamic changes in the gray matter. Moreover, the amplitudes of the task-related responses of the NIRS-Hb signals were significantly correlated with the BOLD signals in the gray matter across participants, which means participants with a stronger NIRS-Hb response showed a stronger BOLD response. These results thus provide supportive evidence that NIRS can be used to measure hemodynamic signals originating from prefrontal cortex activation.


Blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD); Finger tapping; Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Hemoglobin; Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS); Optical topography; Prefrontal cortex; Simultaneous measurement; Working memory

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