A well designed user interface (UI) should be transparent, allowing users to focus their mental workload on the task at hand. We hypothesize that the overall mental workload required to perform a task using a computer system is composed of a portion attributable to the difficulty of the underlying task plus a portion attributable to the complexity of operating the user interface. In this regard, we follow Shneiderman's theory of syntactic and semantic components of a UI. We present an experiment protocol that can be used to measure the workload experienced by users in their various cognitive resources while working with a computer. We then describe an experiment where we used the protocol to quantify the syntactic workload of two User interfaces. We use functional near infrared spectroscopy, a new brain imaging technology that is beginning to be used in HCI. We also discuss extensions of our techniques to adaptive interfaces.