IMR Press / JIN / Volume 20 / Issue 4 / DOI: 10.31083/j.jin2004111
Open Access Commentary
Near-infrared light spectroscopy and stimulation in cognitive neuroscience—the need for an integrative view?
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1 Department of Psychology, University of East London, E15 4LZ Water Lane, London, UK
2 Department of Psychology, Faculty of Life and Natural Sciences, BRABE Group, University of Nebrija, C/ del Hostal, 28248 Madrid, Spain
3 Institute of Neurosciences of the Principality of Asturias, 03195 INEUROPA, Spain
4 Health Research Institute of the Principality of Asturias, 21027 ISPA, Spain
*Correspondence: (Matteo Martini); (Natalia Arias)
J. Integr. Neurosci. 2021, 20(4), 1105–1109;
Submitted: 21 June 2021 | Revised: 5 August 2021 | Accepted: 15 September 2021 | Published: 30 December 2021
Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by IMR Press.
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license (

Near-infrared spectroscopy has been largely used in neuroscience as an alternative non-invasive neuroimaging technique, primarily to measure the oxygenation levels of cerebral hemoglobin. Its portability and relative robustness against motion artifacts made it ideal for measuring cerebral blood changes during physical activity. Usually referred to as ‘functional’ near-infrared spectroscopy when used to monitor brain changes during motor or cognitive tasks, this technique often involves the montage of the probes on the forehead of the participants to gauge the neurophysiological underpinning of executive functioning. Other applications of near-infrared spectroscopy include other aspects of cerebral hemodynamics, such as cerebral pulsatility. More recently, it has been reported how near-infrared light can affect cognitive and psychological processes through what is known as photobiomodulation. However, ‘functional’ near-infrared spectroscopy studies do not seem to have taken this important bit of knowledge into account so far. Hence, drawing on a selection of near-infrared spectroscopy and photobiomodulation experiments, we suggest an integrative view for near-infrared-based neuroimaging studies, which should embrace a control for the possible effects of light stimulation, especially when ‘functional’ near-infrared spectroscopy is considered for testing the effect of an intervention.

Physical exercise
Light therapy
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