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Sci Rep. 2014 Apr 22;4:4740. doi: 10.1038/srep04740.

Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to assess cognitive function in infants in rural Africa.

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Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London.
Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering, University College London.
Medical Research Council (MRC) International Nutrition Group, MRC Keneba, MRC Unit, The Gambia.
1] Medical Research Council (MRC) International Nutrition Group, MRC Keneba, MRC Unit, The Gambia [2] MRC International Nutrition Group, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK.


Cortical mapping of cognitive function during infancy is poorly understood in low-income countries due to the lack of transportable neuroimaging methods. We have successfully piloted functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) as a neuroimaging tool in rural Gambia. Four-to-eight month old infants watched videos of Gambian adults perform social movements, while haemodynamic responses were recorded using fNIRS. We found distinct regions of the posterior superior temporal and inferior frontal cortex that evidenced either visual-social activation or vocally selective activation (vocal > non-vocal). The patterns of selective cortical activation in Gambian infants replicated those observed within similar aged infants in the UK. These are the first reported data on the measurement of localized functional brain activity in young infants in Africa and demonstrate the potential that fNIRS offers for field-based neuroimaging research of cognitive function in resource-poor rural communities.

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