Frontiers in Psychology (Apr 2016)

fNIRS: An emergent method to document functional cortical activity during infant movements

  • Ryota eNishiyori

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7


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The neural basis underlying the emergence of goal-directed actions in infants has been severely understudied, with minimal empirical evidence for hypotheses proposed. This was largely due to the technological constraints of traditional neuroimaging techniques. Recently, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology has emerged as a tool developmental scientists are finding useful to examine cortical activity, particularly in young children and infants due to its greater tolerance to movements than other neuroimaging techniques. fNIRS provides an opportunity to finally begin to examine the neural underpinnings as infants develop goal-directed actions.In this methodological paper, I will outline the utility, challenges, and outcomes of using fNIRS to measure the changes in cortical activity as infants reach for an object. I will describe the advantages and limitations of the technology, the setup I used to study primary motor cortex activity during infant reaching, and example steps in the analyses processes. I will present exemplar data to illustrate the feasibility of this technique to quantify changes in hemodynamic activity as infants move. The viability of this research method opens the door to expanding studies of the development of neural activity related to goal-directed actions in infants. I encourage others to share details of techniques used, as well, including analyticals, to help this neuroimaging technology grow as others, such as EEG and fMRI have.