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A Mini-Review on Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS): Where Do We Stand, and Where Should We Go?
Open AccessFeature PaperOpinion

fNIRS for Tracking Brain Development in the Context of Global Health Projects

Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University College London, WC1E 6BT London, UK
Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, WC1E 7HX London, UK
Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, CB2 3EB Cambridge, UK
Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, University College London, WC1N 1EH London, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Photonics 2019, 6(3), 89;
Received: 6 June 2019 / Revised: 26 July 2019 / Accepted: 30 July 2019 / Published: 2 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurophotonics – Optics for the Brain)
PDF [549 KB, uploaded 2 August 2019]


Over the past 25 years, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) has emerged as a valuable tool to study brain function, and it is in younger participants where it has found, arguably, its most successful application. Thanks to its infant-friendly features, the technology has helped shape research in the neurocognitive development field by contributing to our understanding of the neural underpinnings of sensory perception and socio-cognitive skills. Furthermore, it has provided avenues of exploration for markers of compromised brain development. Advances in fNIRS instrumentation and methods have enabled the next step in the evolution of its applications including the investigation of the effects of complex and interacting socio-economic and environmental adversities on brain development. To do this, it is necessary to take fNIRS out of well-resourced research labs (the majority located in high-income countries) to study at-risk populations in resource-poor settings in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Here we review the use of this technology in global health studies, we discuss the implementation of fNIRS studies in LMICs with a particular emphasis on the Brain Imaging for Global Health (BRIGHT) project, and we consider its potential in this emerging field.
Keywords: fNIRS; global health; infant brain development fNIRS; global health; infant brain development
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Blasi, A.; Lloyd-Fox, S.; Katus, L.; Elwell, C.E. fNIRS for Tracking Brain Development in the Context of Global Health Projects. Photonics 2019, 6, 89.

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