fNIRS is capable of distinguishing laterality of lower body contractions

Rob J. MacLennan, Jesus A. Hernandez-Sarabia, Shawn M. Reese, Jo Carol E. Shields, Claire M. Smith, Katharina Stute, Jordyn Collyar, Alex A. Olmos, Tyler L. Danielson, Demi L. MacLennan, Jason I. Pagan, Ryan M. Girts, Kylie K. Harmon, Nicholas Coker, Joshua C. Carr, Xin Ye, Jonathan W. Perry, Matt S. Stock, Jason M. DeFreitas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) for brain imaging during human movement continues to increase. This technology measures brain activity non-invasively using near-infrared light, is highly portable, and robust to motion artifact. However, the spatial resolution of fNIRS is lower than that of other imaging modalities. It is unclear whether fNIRS has sufficient spatial resolution to differentiate nearby areas of the cortex, such as the leg areas of the motor cortex. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine fNIRS’ ability to discern laterality of lower body contractions. Activity in the primary motor cortex was recorded in forty participants (mean = 23.4 years, SD = 4.5, female = 23, male = 17) while performing unilateral lower body contractions. Contractions were performed at 30% of maximal force against a handheld dynamometer. These contractions included knee extension, knee flexion, dorsiflexion, and plantar flexion of the left and right legs. fNIRS signals were recorded and stored for offline processing and analysis. Channels of fNIRS data were grouped into regions of interest, with five tolerance conditions ranging from strict to lenient. Four of five tolerance conditions resulted in significant differences in cortical activation between hemispheres. During right leg contractions, the left hemisphere was more active than the right hemisphere. Similarly, during left leg contractions, the right hemisphere was more active than the left hemisphere. These results suggest that fNIRS has sufficient spatial resolution to distinguish laterality of lower body contractions. This makes fNIRS an attractive technology in research and clinical applications in which laterality of brain activity is required during lower body activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1115-1126
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Hemoglobin
  • Laterality
  • Motor control
  • Oxygen
  • fNIRS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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