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By Davood Tashayyod, FNIR Devices

The use of dark current measurement in functional near infrared (fNIR) brain imaging (measurements taken not only when LED type light sources shine light at wavelengths 730 and 850 nm but also when they do not shine light (dark current condition)) can provide a valuable tool in identifying and managing certain types of noise in recordings.

Noise in functional near infrared (fNIR) imaging data utilized for neurophysiological brain functioning research is a challenge to researchers, in that excessive or unmanaged noise may pose a risk to the quality of gathered data and hence in the interpretation of the results. This noise arises from two general categories of sources, biological sources and non-biological sources. It should be noted that sources of noise are routinely present, so that noise cannot be eliminated but rather must be managed. Biological sources of noise include the respiratory and cardiac cycles and slow vasomotor oscillations. Non-biological sources of noise may include contamination from other external devices and noise induced by improper sensor application (light leakage, in the case of fNIR sensors), cable movements, or instruments or equipment used in the course of the experiment. These sources, independently or in combination, can mask the signals of interest.

Close attention to good laboratory practices, to include proper sensor placement, trial runs to establish baselines, and other techniques can help to reduce noise. Close attention to experiment protocols during the experiment can also be of assistance. However, it is in post-experiment data processing and analysis phases that the researcher has the greatest number of tools to manage noise. These tools include intuitive or visual analysis, filtering, and specialized analysis. Each method has strengths and weaknesses, but used in combination they offer a reliable method of managing noise and improving data quality.

Visual or intuitive analysis depends upon researcher experience and qualification, and some artifacts may be too small to be readily apparent. Filtering is useful, but in some range of measurements noisy data segments may be so great or may not contain any signal originated from the brain such as in the case when the sensor loses contact with the skin and captures data only from the ambient that it may not make sense to remove noise, rather such data segments should be identified and discarded.

Specialized analysis, such as dark current measurement, provide a very useful method for both identifying the noise not readily apparent to the naked eye and identifying data segments where filtering is likely to not be useful. A discussion of the use of dark current measurement can be found here.

For more information on optical braining imaging systems, visit BIOPAC’s fNIR page. BIOPAC also provides a wide range of tools for recording, displaying, classifying, and analyzing psychophysiological measurements—including EEG, ECG, EDA, PPG, and emotional states—visit BIOPAC’sapplications pages and view BIOPAC’s full line of physiology data acquisition and analysis systemselectrodes,amplifiers, and wearable, wireless transmitters and loggers.

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