Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is used to measure cerebral activity because it is simple and portable. However, scalp-hemodynamics often contaminates fNIRS signals, leading to detection of cortical activity in regions that are actually inactive. Methods for removing these artifacts using standard source–detector distance channels (Long-channel) tend to over-estimate the artifacts, while methods using additional short source–detector distance channels (Short-channel) require numerous probes to cover broad cortical areas, which leads to a high cost and prolonged experimental time. Here, we propose a new method that effectively combines the existing techniques, preserving the accuracy of estimating cerebral activity and avoiding the disadvantages inherent when applying the techniques individually. Our new method accomplishes this by estimating a global scalp-hemodynamic component from a small number of Short-channels, and removing its influence from the Long-channels using a general linear model (GLM). To demonstrate the feasibility of this method, we collected fNIRS and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measurements during a motor task. First, we measured changes in oxygenated hemoglobin concentration (∆ Oxy-Hb) from 18 Short-channels placed over motor-related areas, and confirmed that the majority of scalp-hemodynamics was globally consistent and could be estimated from as few as four Short-channels using principal component analysis. We then measured ∆ Oxy-Hb from 4 Short- and 43 Long-channels. The GLM identified cerebral activity comparable to that measured separately by fMRI, even when scalp-hemodynamics exhibited substantial task-related modulation. These results suggest that combining measurements from four Short-channels with a GLM provides robust estimation of cerebral activity at a low cost.
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