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Keywords:

  • near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS);
  • infant;
  • development;
  • language;
  • speech;
  • cerebral lateralization;
  • functional brain activity;
  • neuroimaging

Abstract

Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) provides a unique method of monitoring infant brain function by measuring the changes in the concentrations of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin. During the past 10 years, NIRS measurement of the developing brain has rapidly expanded. In this article, a brief discussion of the general principles of NIRS, including its technical advantages and limitations, is followed by a detailed review of the role played so far by NIRS in the study of infant perception and cognition, including language, and visual and auditory functions. Results have highlighted, in particular, the developmental changes of cerebral asymmetry associated with speech acquisition. Finally, suggestions for future studies of neurocognitive development using NIRS are presented. Although NIRS studies of the infant brain have yet to fulfill their potential, a review of the work done so far indicates that NIRS is likely to provide many unique insights in the field of developmental neuroscience. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2008