Assessment of fnirs signal processing pipelines: Towards clinical applications

Augusto Bonilauri, Francesca Sangiuliano Intra, Giuseppe Baselli, Francesca Baglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Featured Application: In neurodegenerative diseases and neurorehabilitation, follow-up requires instrumental evidence besides clinical cognitive and motor scores. fMRI is frequently not suitable, either because patients are not eligible for an MRI or because it is prone to motion artifacts. The fNIRS technique attenuates these limitations since brain activations can be measured in a more versatile experimental setting, even if restricted to cortical activity. Therefore, the roadmap towards full clinical acceptance of fNIRS aims to provide an additional and more flexible solution to fMRI when not available or feasible, but it needs standard signal processing and protocols. This study provides comparisons of alternative processing methods in the above applicative perspective. Abstract: Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) captures activations and inhibitions of cortical areas and implements a viable approach to neuromonitoring in clinical research. Compared to more advanced methods, continuous wave fNIRS (CW-fNIRS) is currently used in clinics for its simplicity in mapping the whole sub-cranial cortex. Conversely, it often lacks hardware reduction of confounding factors, stressing the importance of a correct signal processing. The proposed pipeline includes movement artifact reduction (MAR), bandpass filtering (BPF), and principal component analysis (PCA). Eight MAR algorithms were compared among 23 young adult volunteers under motor-grasping task. Single-subject examples are shown followed by the percentage in energy reduction (ERD%) statistics by single steps and cumulative values. The block average of the hemodynamic response function was compared with generalized linear model fitting. Maps of significant activation/inhibition were illustrated. The mean ERD% of pre-processed signals concerning the initial raw signal energy reached 4%. A tested multichannel MAR variant showed overcorrection on 4-fold more expansive windows. All of the MAR algorithms found similar activations in the contra-lateral motor area. In conclusion, single channel MAR algorithms are suggested followed by BPF and PCA. The importance of whole cortex mapping for fNIRS integration in clinical applications was also confirmed by our results.

Original languageEnglish
Article number316
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Brain activation mapping
  • Clinical fNIRS translation
  • Continuous wave functional near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Functional near-infrared signal processing
  • Hemispheric hemodynamic response
  • Motor tasks
  • Movement artifact removal
  • Rehabilitation monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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