Luuk P. H. van de Rijt 1, 2, D-F  
,   Marc M. van Wanrooij 2, E,   Ad. F. M. Snik 1, E,   Emmanuel A. M. Mylanus 1, E,   A. John van Opstal 2, E,   Anja Roye 2, E
More details
Hide details
Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Department of Biophysics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
A - Research concept and design; B - Collection and/or assembly of data; C - Data analysis and interpretation; D - Writing the article; E - Critical revision of the article; F - Final approval of article;
Luuk P. H. van de Rijt   

Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Heyendaalseweg 135, 6525 AJ Nijmegen, The Netherlands, Telephone: +31 24 36 14 238, Email:
Publication date: 2020-04-09
J Hear Sci 2018;8(4):9–18
Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is an optical, non-invasive neuroimaging technique that investigates human brain activity by calculating concentrations of oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin. The aim of this publication is to review the current state of the art as to how fNIRS has been used to study auditory function. We address temporal and spatial characteristics of the hemodynamic response to auditory stimulation as well as experimental factors that affect fNIRS data such as acoustic and stimulus-driven effects. The rising importance that fNIRS is generating in auditory neuroscience underlines the strong potential of the technology, and it seems likely that fNIRS will become a useful clinical tool.
Jobsis F. Noninvasive, infrared monitoring of cerebral and myocardial oxygen sufficiency and circulatory parameters. Science, 1977; 198(4323): 1264–7.
Lloyd-Fox S, Blasi A, Elwell CE. Illuminating the developing brain: the past, present and future of functional near infrared spectroscopy. Neurosci Biobehav Rev, 2010; 34(3): 269–84.
Scholkmann F, Kleiser S, Metz AJ, Zimmermann R, Mata Pavia J, Wolf U, et al. A review on continuous wave functional nearinfrared spectroscopy and imaging instrumentation and methodology. Neuroimage, 2014; 85: 6–27.
Strangman G, Boas DA, Sutton JP. Non-invasive neuroimaging using near-infrared light. Biol Psychiatry, 2002; 52(7): 679–93.
Logothetis NK, Wandell BA. Interpreting the BOLD signal. Annu Rev Physiol, 2004; 66: 735–69.
Cope M, Delpy DT. System for long-term measurement of cerebral blood and tissue oxygenation on newborn infants by near infra-red transillumination. Med Biol Eng Comput, 1988; 26(3): 289–94.
Bortfeld H, Wruck E, Boas DA. Assessing infants’ cortical response to speech using near-infrared spectroscopy. Neuroimage, 2007; 34(1): 407–15.
Dewey RS, Hartley DEH. Cortical cross-modal plasticity following deafness measured using functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Hear Res, 2015; 325: 55–63.
Johnsrude IS, Giraud AL, Frackowiak RSJ. Functional Imaging of the auditory system: the use of positron emission tomography. Audiol Neuro-otol, 2002; 7(5): 251–76.
Hall DA, Haggard MP, Akeroyd MA, Summerfield AQ, Palmer AR, Elliott MR, et al. Modulation and task effects in auditory processing measured using fMRI. Hum Brain Mapp, 2000; 10(3): 107–19.
Sevy ABG, Bortfeld H, Huppert TJ, Beauchamp MS, Tonini RE, Oghalai JS. Neuroimaging with near-infrared spectroscopy demonstrates speech-evoked activity in the auditory cortex of deaf children following cochlear implantation. Hear Res, 2010; 270(1– 2): 39–47.
Anderson CA, Lazard DS, Hartley DEH. Plasticity in bilateral superior temporal cortex: effects of deafness and cochlear implantation on auditory and visual speech processing. Hear Res, 2017; 343: 138–49.
Villringer A, Dirnagl U. Coupling of brain activity and cerebral blood flow: basis of functional neuroimaging. Cerebrovasc Brain Metab Rev, 1995; 7(3): 240–76.
Boden S, Obrig H, Köhncke C, Benav H, Koch SP, Steinbrink J. The oxygenation response to functional stimulation: is there a physiological meaning to the lag between parameters? Neuroimage, 2007; 36(1): 100–7.
Obrig H, Wenzel R, Kohl M, Horst S, Wobst P, Steinbrink J, et al. Near-infrared spectroscopy: does it function in functional activation studies of the adult brain? Int J Psychophysiol, 2000; 35(2–3): 125–42.
Steinbrink J, Villringer A, Kempf F, Haux D, Boden S, Obrig H. Illuminating the BOLD signal: combined fMRI–fNIRS studies. Magn Reson Imaging, 2006; 24(4): 495–505.
Hillman EMC. Coupling mechanism and significance of the BOLD signal: a status report. Annu Rev Neurosci, 2014; 37(1): 161–81.
Toronov VY, Zhang X, Webb AG. A spatial and temporal comparison of hemodynamic signals measured using optical and functional magnetic resonance imaging during activation in the human primary visual cortex. Neuroimage, 2007; 34(3): 1136–48.
Jones M, Berwick J, Johnston D, Mayhew J. Concurrent optical imaging spectroscopy and laser-doppler flowmetry: the relationship between blood flow, oxygenation, and volume in rodent barrel cortex. Neuroimage, 2001; 13(6 Pt 1): 1002–15.
Buxton RB, Uludağ K, Dubowitz DJ, Liu TT. Modeling the hemodynamic response to brain activation. Neuroimage, 2004; 23 Suppl 1: S220–33.
Horner AJ, Andrews TJ. Linearity of the fMRI response in category-selective regions of human visual cortex. Hum Brain Mapp, 2009; 30(8): 2628–40.
Friston KJ, Fletcher P, Josephs O, Holmes A, Rugg MD, Turner R. Event-related fMRI: characterizing differential responses. Neuroimage, 1998; 7(1): 30–40.
Soltysik DA, Peck KK, White KD, Crosson B, Briggs RW. Comparison of hemodynamic response nonlinearity across primary cortical areas. Neuroimage. 2004;22(3):1117–27.
Rees G, Howseman A, Josephs O, Frith CD, Friston KJ, Frackowiak RS, et al. Characterizing the relationship between BOLD contrast and regional cerebral blood flow measurements by varying the stimulus presentation rate. Neuroimage, 1997; 6(4): 270–8.
Binder JR, Rao SM, Hammeke TA, Frost JA, Bandettini PA, Hyde JS. Effects of stimulus rate on signal response during functional magnetic resonance imaging of auditory cortex. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res, 1994; 2(1): 31–8.
Pérez-González D, Malmierca MS. Adaptation in the auditory system: an overview. Front Integr Neurosci, 2014; 8(5): 19.
van de Rijt LPH, van Opstal AJ, Mylanus EAM, Straatman LV, Hu HY, Snik AFM, et al. Temporal cortex activation to audiovisual speech in normal-hearing and cochlear implant users measured with functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Front Hum Neurosci, 2016; 10: 48.
Ohnishi M, Kusakawa N, Masaki S, Honda K, Hayashi N, Shimada Y, et al. Measurement of hemodynamics of auditory cortex using magnetoencephalography and near infrared spectroscopy. Acta Otolaryngol Suppl, 1997; 532: 129–31.
Minagawa-Kawai Y, Mori K, Naoi N, Kojima S. Neural attunement processes in infants during the acquisition of a languagespecific phonemic contrast. J Neurosci, 2007; 27(2): 315–21.
Minagawa-Kawai Y, Mori K, Sato Y, Koizumi T. Differential cortical responses in second language learners to different vowel contrasts. Neuroreport. 2004; 15(5): 899–903.
Sato Y, Utsugi A, Yamane N, Koizumi M, Mazuka R. Dialectal differences in hemispheric specialization for Japanese lexical pitch accent. Brain Lang, 2013; 127(3): 475–83.
Yoo S, Lee K-M. Articulation-based sound perception in verbal repetition: a functional NIRS study. Front Hum Neurosci, 2013;7(Sept): 540.
Pollonini L, Olds C, Abaya H, Bortfeld H, Beauchamp MS, Oghalai JS. Auditory cortex activation to natural speech and simulated cochlear implant speech measured with functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Hear Res, 2014; 309: 84–93.
Olds C, Pollonini L, Abaya H, Larky J, Loy M, Bortfeld H, et al. Cortical activation patterns correlate with speech understanding after cochlear implantation. Ear Hear, 2015; 37(3): 1–13.
Abla D, Okanoya K. Statistical segmentation of tone sequences activates the left inferior frontal cortex: a near-infrared spectroscopy study. Neuropsychologia, 2008; 46(11): 2787–95.
Bembich S, Demarini S, Clarici A, Massaccesi S, Grasso DL. Noninvasive assessment of hemispheric language dominance by optical topography during a brief passive listening test: a pilot study. Med Sci Monit, 2011; 17(12): CR692–7.
Ehlis AC, Ringel TM, Plichta MM, Richter MM, Herrmann MJ, Fallgatter AJ. Cortical correlates of auditory sensory gating: a simultaneous near-infrared spectroscopy event-related potential study. Neuroscience, 2009; 159(3): 1032–43.
Okamoto M, Dan H, Sakamoto K, Takeo K, Shimizu K, Kohno S, et al. Three-dimensional probabilistic anatomical cranio-cerebral correlation via the international 10–20 system oriented for transcranial functional brain mapping. Neuroimage, 2004; 21(1): 99–111.
Sato H, Kiguchi M, Maki A, Fuchino Y, Obata A, Yoro T, et al. Within-subject reproducibility of near-infrared spectroscopy signals in sensorimotor activation after 6 months. J Biomed Opt, 2006; 11(1): 014021.
Noguchi Y, Takeuchi T, Sakai KL. Lateralized activation in the inferior frontal cortex during syntactic processing: eventrelated optical topography study. Hum Brain Mapp, 2002; 17(2): 89–99. Available from:
Sato H, Takeuchi T, Sakai KL. Temporal cortex activation during speech recognition: an optical topography study. Cognition, 1999; 73(3): B55–66.
Sato Y, Mori K, Koizumi T, Minagawa-Kawai Y, Tanaka A, Ozawa E, et al. Functional lateralization of speech processing in adults and children who stutter. Front Psychol, 2011; 2(Apr): 70.
Plichta MM, Gerdes ABM, Alpers GW, Harnisch W, Brill S, Wieser MJ, et al. Auditory cortex activation is modulated by emotion: a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) study. Neuroimage, 2011; 55(3): 1200–7.
Zhang Q, Strangman GE, Ganis G. Adaptive filtering to reduce global interference in non-invasive NIRS measures of brain activation: how well and when does it work? Neuroimage, 2009; 45(3): 788–94.
Gagnon L, Perdue K, Greve DN, Goldenholz D, Kaskhedikar G, Boas DA. Improved recovery of the hemodynamic response in diffuse optical imaging using short optode separations and statespace modeling. Neuroimage, 2011; 56(3): 1362–71.
Zee P van der, Arridge SR, Cope M, Delphy DT. The effect of optode positioning on optical pathlength in near infrared spectroscopy of brain. Adv Exp Med Biol, 1990; 277: 79–84.
Okada E, Firbank M, Schweiger M, Arridge SR, Cope M, Delpy DT. Theoretical and experimental investigation of near-infrared light propagation in a model of the adult head. Appl Opt, 1997; 36(1): 21–31.
Cui X, Bray S, Bryant DM, Glover GH, Reiss AL. A quantitative comparison of NIRS and fMRI across multiple cognitive tasks. Neuroimage, 2011; 54(4): 2808–21.
Strait M, Scheutz M. What we can and cannot (yet) do with functional near infrared spectroscopy. Front Neurosci, 2014; 8(May): 117.
Scarpa F, Brigadoi S, Cutini S, Scatturin P, Zorzi M, Dell’acqua R, et al. A reference-channel based methodology to improve estimation of event-related hemodynamic response from fNIRS measurements. Neuroimage, 2013; 72: 106–19.
Fekete T, Rubin D, Carlson JM, Mujica-Parodi LR. The NIRS analysis package: noise reduction and statistical inference. PLOS One, 2011; 6(9): e24322.
Kennan RP, Horovitz SG, Maki A, Yamashita Y, Koizumi H, Gore JC. Simultaneous recording of event-related auditory oddball response using transcranial near infrared optical topography and surface EEG. Neuroimage, 2002; 16(3): 587–92.
Plichta MM, Herrmann MJ, Baehne CG, Ehlis AC, Richter MM, Pauli P, et al. Event-related functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS): are the measurements reliable? Neuroimage, 2006; 31(1): 116–24.
Plichta MM, Heinzel S, Ehlis AC, Pauli P, Fallgatter AJ. Model-based analysis of rapid event-related functional near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) data: a parametric validation study. Neuroimage, 2007; 35(2): 625–34.
Tak S, Ye JC. Statistical analysis of fNIRS data: a comprehensive review. Neuroimage, 2014; 85 (Pt 1): 72–91.
Plichta MM, Herrmann MJ, Ehlis AC, Baehne CG, Richter MM, Fallgatter AJ. Event-related visual versus blocked motor task: detection of specific cortical activation patterns with functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Neuropsychobiol, 2006; 53(2): 77–82.
Minagawa-Kawai Y, Mori K, Furuya I, Hayashi R, Sato Y. Assessing cerebral representations of short and long vowel categories by NIRS. Neuroreport, 2002; 13(5): 581–4.
Minagawa-Kawai Y, Mori K, Sato Y. Different brain strategies underlie the categorical perception of foreign and native phonemes. J Cogn Neurosci, 2005; 17(9): 1376–85.
Chen L-C, Sandmann P, Thorne JD, Herrmann CS, Debener S. Association of concurrent fNIRS and EEG signatures in response to auditory and visual stimuli. Brain Topogr, 2015; 28(5): 710–25.
Jäncke L, Shah NJ, Posse S, Grosse-Ryuken M, Müller-Gärtner HW. Intensity coding of auditory stimuli: an fMRI study. Neuropsychologia, 1998; 36(9): 875–83.
Lockwood AH, Salvi RJ, Coad M Lou, Arnold SA, Wack DS, Murphy BW, et al. The functional anatomy of the normal human auditory system: responses to 0.5 and 4.0 kHz tones at varied intensities. Cereb Cortex, 1999; 9(1): 65–76.
Uppenkamp S, Röhl M. Human auditory neuroimaging of intensity and loudness. Hear Res, 2014; 307: 65–73.
Langers DRM, Backes WH, van Dijk P. Representation of lateralization and tonotopy in primary versus secondary human auditory cortex. Neuroimage, 2007; 34(1): 264–73.
Röhl M, Uppenkamp S. Neural coding of sound intensity and loudness in the human auditory system. JARO, 2012; 13(3): 369–79.
Rinne T, Pekkola J, Degerman A, Autti T, Jääskeläinen IP, Sams M, et al. Modulation of auditory cortex activation by sound presentation rate and attention. Hum Brain Mapp, 2005; 26(2): 94–9.
Sheth SA, Nemoto M, Guiou M, Walker M, Pouratian N, Toga AW. Linear and nonlinear relationships between neuronal activity, oxygen metabolism, and hemodynamic responses. Neuron, 2004; 42(2): 347–55.
Harms MP, Melcher JR. Sound repetition rate in the human auditory pathway: representations in the waveshape and amplitude of fMRI activation. J Neurophysiol, 2002; 88(3): 1433–50.
Tanaka H, Fujita N, Watanabe Y, Hirabuki N, Takanashi M, Oshiro Y, et al. Effects of stimulus rate on the auditory cortex using fMRI with “sparse” temporal sampling. Neuroreport, 2000; 11(9): 2045–9.
Weiss AP, Duff M, Roffman JL, Rauch SL, Strangman GE. Auditory stimulus repetition effects on cortical hemoglobin oxygenation: a near-infrared spectroscopy investigation. Neuroreport, 2008; 19(2): 161–5.
Grill-Spector K, Henson R, Martin A. Repetition and the brain: neural models of stimulus-specific effects. Trends Cogn Sci, 2006; 10(1): 14–23.
Nelken I. Stimulus-specific adaptation and deviance detection in the auditory system: experiments and models. Biol Cybern, 2014; 108(5): 655–63.
Hall DA, Johnsrude IS, Haggard MP, Palmer AR, Akeroyd MA, Summerfield AQ. Spectral and temporal processing in human auditory cortex. Cereb Cortex, 2002; 12(2): 140–9.
Strainer JC, Ulmer JL, Yetkin FZ, Haughton VM, Daniels DL, Millen SJ. Functional MR of the primary auditory cortex: an analysis of pure tone activation and tone discrimination. Am J Neuroradiol, 1997; 18(4): 601–10.
Samson F, Zeffiro TA, Toussaint A, Belin P. Stimulus complexity and categorical effects in human auditory cortex: an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis. Front Psychol, 2010; 1(Jan): 241.
Köchel A, Schöngassner F, Schienle A. Cortical activation during auditory elicitation of fear and disgust: a near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) study. Neurosci Lett, 2013; 549: 197–200.
Alho K, Rinne T, Herron TJ, Woods DL. Stimulus-dependent activations and attention-related modulations in the auditory cortex: a meta-analysis of fMRI studies. Hear Res, 2014; 307: 29–41.
Lee AKC, Larson E, Maddox RK, Shinn-Cunningham BG. Using neuroimaging to understand the cortical mechanisms of auditory selective attention. Hear Res, 2014; 307: 111–20.
Santosa H, Hong MJ, Hong K-S. Lateralization of music processing with noises in the auditory cortex: an fNIRS study. Front Behav Neurosci, 2014; 8(Dec): 418.
Kojima H, Suzuki T. Hemodynamic change in occipital lobe during visual search: visual attention allocation measured with NIRS. Neuropsychologia, 2010; 48(1): 349–52.
Remijn GB, Kojima H. Active versus passive listening to auditory streaming stimuli: a near-infrared spectroscopy study. J Biomed Opt, 2010; 15(3): 037006.
Plichta MM, Herrmann MJ, Baehne CG, Ehlis AC, Richter MM, Pauli P, et al. Event-related functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) based on craniocerebral correlations: reproducibility of activation? Hum Brain Mapp, 2007; 28(8): 79–18.
Kono T, Matsuo K, Tsunashima K, Kasai K, Takizawa R, Rogers MA, et al. Multiple-time replicability of near-infrared spectroscopy recording during prefrontal activation task in healthy men. Neurosci Res, 2007; 57(4): 504–12.
Schecklmann M, Ehlis AC, Plichta MM, Fallgatter AJ. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy: a long-term reliable tool for measuring brain activity during verbal fluency. Neuroimage, 2008; 43(1): 147–55.
Boas DA, Dale AM, Franceschini MA. Diffuse optical imaging of brain activation: approaches to optimizing image sensitivity, resolution, and accuracy. Neuroimage, 2004; 23(Supp 1): S275–88.
Jacques SL. Optical properties of biological tissues: a review. Phys Med Biol, 2013; 58: R37.
Durduran T, Choe R, Baker WB, Yodh AG. Diffuse optics for tissue monitoring and tomography. Rep Prog Phys, 2010; 73: 43.
Mehagnoul-Schipper DJ, van der Kallen BFW, Colier WNJM, van der Sluijs MC, van Erning LJTO, Thijssen HOM, et al. Simultaneous measurements of cerebral oxygenation changes during brain activation by near-infrared spectroscopy and functional magnetic resonance imaging in healthy young and elderly subjects. Hum Brain Mapp, 2002; 16(1): 14–23.
Wallois F, Mahmoudzadeh M, Patil A, Grebe R. Usefulness of simultaneous EEG–NIRS recording in language studies. Brain Lang, 2012; 121(2): 110–23.