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Front Behav Neurosci. 2016 Jun 7;10:108. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00108. eCollection 2016.

A Proof of Concept Study of Function-Based Statistical Analysis of fNIRS Data: Syntax Comprehension in Children with Specific Language Impairment Compared to Typically-Developing Controls.

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Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Utah State University Logan, UT, USA.
Department of Psychology, Utah State University Logan, UT, USA.
Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research, Division of Brain Sciences, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Stanford University Stanford, CA, USA.
Department of Communication Disorders, Ohio University Athens, OH, USA.
School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas Richardson, TX, USA.
Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education, Utah State University Logan, UT, USA.


Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a neuroimaging technology that enables investigators to indirectly monitor brain activity in vivo through relative changes in the concentration of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin. One of the key features of fNIRS is its superior temporal resolution, with dense measurements over very short periods of time (100 ms increments). Unfortunately, most statistical analysis approaches in the existing literature have not fully utilized the high temporal resolution of fNIRS. For example, many analysis procedures are based on linearity assumptions that only extract partial information, thereby neglecting the overall dynamic trends in fNIRS trajectories. The main goal of this article is to assess the ability of a functional data analysis (FDA) approach for detecting significant differences in hemodynamic responses recorded by fNIRS. Children with and without SLI wore two, 3 × 5 fNIRS caps situated over the bilateral parasylvian areas as they completed a language comprehension task. FDA was used to decompose the high dimensional hemodynamic curves into the mean function and a few eigenfunctions to represent the overall trend and variation structures over time. Compared to the most popular GLM, we did not assume any parametric structure and let the data speak for itself. This analysis identified significant differences between the case and control groups in the oxygenated hemodynamic mean trends in the bilateral inferior frontal and left inferior posterior parietal brain regions. We also detected significant group differences in the deoxygenated hemodynamic mean trends in the right inferior posterior parietal cortex and left temporal parietal junction. These findings, using dramatically different approaches, experimental designs, data sets, and foci, were consistent with several other reports, confirming group differences in the importance of these two areas for syntax comprehension. The proposed FDA was consistent with the temporal characteristics of fNIRS, thus providing an alternative methodology for fNIRS analyses.


fNIRS; functional data analysis; hemodynamic response curve; sentence comprehension; specific language impairment

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