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Minicourse EDEP-CB11

Bringing fNIRS outside the lab: methodological challenges and possible applications

Chiara Bulgarelli

with Sarah Lloyd Fox, Borja Blanco, Isla Jones

About this course

Recent advances in fNIRS technology and analytics have made it possible to test participants during more naturalistic conditions. This is particularly valuable when focusing on social neuroscience, where it is important that participants interact with each other or experience the “real world”, or when setting up a study in non-traditional settings, where other technologies would be difficult to implement, such as in low resource countries or homes. While interest in using fNIRS in non-standard lab settings is growing, researchers in this field may face new challenges. For example, the standard well-known task design structure might not be compatible with asking a participant to engage in real-world interactions, where the dynamics and variables are more complex and fluid. Implementing fNIRS in low-resource countries or in families’ homes is of the highest importance, as it means we can reach populations that would not otherwise participate in research. However, in these settings, technical support is limited and contextual factors might impact the use of fNIRS. This workshop aims to address the challenges of using fNIRS outside conventional lab settings and propose possible solutions, thereby advancing and encouraging the use of this method for more naturalistic studies.

Learning Outcomes

  • Observe practical applications of bringing fNIRS outside the standard lab setting.
  • Discuss some challenges of implementing fNIRS in non-typical lab settings and how we overcame them.
  • Discuss how different set-ups and tasks design impact data-analysis.
  • Participating in an engaging discussion between the organisers and the audience to explore possible new avenues of naturalistic studies and discuss alternative solutions to tackle the challenges presented.

Course Plan

Level: Introductory

Pre-Requisites: None
Course Duration: 2 hours

Delivery Plan

10 min: Introduction to using fNIRS outside the lab
20 min: Roundtable discussion to generate a list of potential challenges and advantages
25 min: the PIPKIN study, evidence from newborn-infancy in homes
15 min: combining wearable fNIRS in a VR set-up to assess toddlers’ development
15 min: The BRIGHT project: field contexts in Africa
15 min: Adult studies in dynamic real-world contexts
30 min: General discussion

Why enrol on this course?

The overall aim of the workshop is to present possible applications of fNIRS outside the lab, discussing challenges that researchers faced in terms of study planning, task design and data analysis. In this workshop, four leaders in the field of naturalistic neuroscience with fNIRS will share their experiences and discuss possible future applications with the audience – information that is often not extensively described in papers. The four talks are designed to cover various testing settings (i.e. homes, VR labs, poor-resource settings, real-world) and different age groups (i.e. infants, toddlers, adults) to reach the wider interest of the fNIRS audience.