Neurophotonics • Open AccessCommentary on the statistical properties of noise and its implication on general linear models in functional near-infrared spectroscopy
Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a noninvasive neuroimaging technique that uses low levels of light to measure changes in cerebral blood oxygenation levels. In the majority of NIRS functional brain studies, analysis of this data is based on a statistical comparison of hemodynamic levels between a baseline and task or between multiple task conditions by means of a linear regression model: the so-called general linear model. Although these methods are similar to their implementation in other fields, particularly for functional magnetic resonance imaging, the specific application of these methods in fNIRS research differs in several key ways related to the sources of noise and artifacts unique to fNIRS. In this brief communication, we discuss the application of linear regression models in fNIRS and the modifications needed to generalize these models in order to deal with structured (colored) noise due to systemic physiology and noise heteroscedasticity due to motion artifacts. The objective of this work is to present an overview of these noise properties in the context of the linear model as it applies to fNIRS data. This work is aimed at explaining these mathematical issues to the general fNIRS experimental researcher but is not intended to be a complete mathematical treatment of these concepts.