Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy: Insights from Combined Recording Studies




Scarapicchia, Vanessa
Brown, Cassandra
Mayo, Chantel
Gawryluk, Jodie R.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Frontiers in Human Neuroscience


Although blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a widely available, non-invasive technique that offers excellent spatial resolution, it remains limited by practical constraints imposed by the scanner environment. More recently, functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) has emerged as an alternative hemodynamic-based approach that possesses a number of strengths where fMRI is limited, most notably in portability and higher tolerance for motion. To date, fNIRS has shown promise in its ability to shed light on the functioning of the human brain in populations and contexts previously inaccessible to fMRI. Notable contributions include infant neuroimaging studies and studies examining full-body behaviors, such as exercise. However, much like fMRI, fNIRS has technical constraints that have limited its application to clinical settings, including a lower spatial resolution and limited depth of recording. Thus, by combining fMRI and fNIRS in such a way that the two methods complement each other, a multimodal imaging approach may allow for more complex research paradigms than is feasible with either technique alone. In light of these issues, the purpose of the current review is to: (1) provide an overview of fMRI and fNIRS and their associated strengths and limitations; (2) review existing combined fMRI-fNIRS recording studies; and (3) discuss how their combined use in future research practices may aid in advancing modern investigations of human brain function.



fMRI, fNIRS, multimodal, combined recording, cognition


Scarapicchia, V.; Brown, C.; Mayo, C.; & Gawryluk, J. R. (2017). Functional magnetic resonance imaging and functional near-infrared spectroscopy: Insights from combined recording studies. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, article 419. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00419