A reference-channel based methodology to improve estimation of event-related hemodynamic response from fNIRS measurements

Fabio Scarpa, Sabrina Brigadoi, Simone Cutini, Pietro Scatturin, Marco Zorzi, Roberto Dell'Acqua, Giovanni Sparacino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) uses near-infrared light to measure cortical concentration changes in oxygenated (HbO) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (HbR) held to be correlated with cognitive activity. Providing a parametric depiction of such changes in the classic form of stimulus-evoked hemodynamic responses (HRs) can be attained with this technique only by solving two problems. One problem concerns the separation of informative optical signal from structurally analogous noise generated by a variety of spurious sources, such as heart beat, respiration, and vasomotor waves. Another problem pertains to the inherent variability of HRs, which is notoriously contingent on the type of experiment, brain region monitored, and human phenotype. A novel method was devised in the present context to solve both problems based on a two-step algorithm combining the treatment of noise-only data extrapolated from a reference-channel and a Bayesian filter applied on a per-trial basis. The present method was compared to two current methods based on conventional averaging, namely, a typical averaging method and an averaging method implementing the use of a reference-channel. The result of the comparison, carried out both on artificial and real data, revealed a sensitive accuracy improvement in HR estimation using the present method relative to each of the other methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-119
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - May 5 2013



  • Bayesian filtering
  • Near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Physiological noise
  • Reference-channel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology

Cite this

Scarpa, F., Brigadoi, S., Cutini, S., Scatturin, P., Zorzi, M., Dell'Acqua, R., & Sparacino, G. (2013). A reference-channel based methodology to improve estimation of event-related hemodynamic response from fNIRS measurements. NeuroImage, 72, 106-119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.01.021