Feasibility study of functional near-infrared spectroscopy in the ventral visual pathway for real-life applications


Significance fNIRS-based neuroenhancement depends on the feasible detection of hemodynamic responses in target brain regions. Using the lateral occipital complex (LOC) and the fusiform face area (FFA) in the ventral visual pathway as neurofeedback targets boosts performance in visual recognition. However, the feasibility of utilizing fNIRS to detect LOC and FFA activity in adults remains to be validated as the depth of these regions may exceed the detection limit of fNIRS. Aim This study aims to investigate the feasibility of using fNIRS to measure hemodynamic responses in the ventral visual pathway, specifically in the LOC and FFA, in adults. Approach We recorded the hemodynamic activities of the LOC and FFA regions in 35 subjects using a portable eight-channel fNIRS instrument. A standard one-back object and face recognition task was employed to elicit selective brain responses in the LOC and FFA regions. The placement of fNIRS optodes for LOC and FFA detection was guided by our group’s transcranial brain atlas (TBA). Results Our findings revealed selective activation of the LOC target channel (CH2) in response to objects, whereas the FFA target channel (CH7) did not exhibit selective activation in response to faces. Conclusions Our findings indicate that, although fNIRS detection has limitations in capturing FFA activity, the LOC region emerges as a viable target for fNIRS-based detection. Furthermore, our results advocate for the adoption of the TBA-based method for setting the LOC target channel, offering a promising solution for optrode placement. This feasibility study stands as the inaugural validation of fNIRS for detecting cortical activity in the ventral visual pathway, underscoring its ecological validity. We suggest that our findings establish a pivotal technical groundwork for prospective real-life applications of fNIRS-based research.