Functional near Infrared Optical Imaging in Cognitive Neuroscience: An Introductory Review
Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy
Cognitive neuroscience is a multidisciplinary fi eld focused on the exploration of the neural substrates underlying cognitive functions; it originated in the early 1980s from the connection between neuroscience and cognitive science although over the years it has constantly been enriched by an increasing interaction with several other disciplines, 1 such as neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, neuropsychology, psychophysiology and computational modelling. Nowadays, cognitive neuroscience represents a
... prominent fi eld in the investigation of the human brain. Due to its multidisciplinary nature, cognitive neuroscience adopts several investigation methods, such as lesion studies, multi-unit and single-cell recording; nevertheless, the most remarkable progress in understanding the relationship between brain and cognition has been made with functional brain imaging methods. Before the advent of brain imaging, the association between brain regions and cognitive functions was mainly provided by clinical neuropsychological investigations of brain-damaged patients and post-mortem examination. When brain imaging was introduced, cognitive scientists were given the chance to investigate the human brain in a wide variety of actions, from perception to higher order mental activities. With brain Cognitive neuroscience is a multidisciplinary fi eld focused on the exploration of the neural substrates underlying cognitive functions; the most remarkable progress in understanding the relationship between brain and cognition has been made with functional brain imaging. Functional near infrared (fNIR) spectroscopy is a non-invasive brain imaging technique that measures the variation of oxygenated and deoxygenated haemoglobin at high temporal resolution. Stemming from the fi rst pioneering experiments, the use of fNIR spectroscopy in cognitive neuroscience has constantly increased. Here, we present a brief review of the fNIR spectroscopy investigations in the cognitive neuroscience fi eld. The topics discussed encompass the classical issues in cognitive neuroscience, such as the exploration of the neural correlates of vision, language, memory, attention and executive functions. Other relevant research topics are introduced in order to show the strengths and the limitations of fNIR spectroscopy, as well as its potential in the biomedical fi eld. This review is intended to provide a general view of the wide variety of optical imaging applications in the fi eld of cognitive neuroscience. The increasing body of studies and the constant technical improvement suggest that fNIR spectroscopy is a versatile and promising instrument to investigate the neural correlates of human cognition.