PHOEBE: A method for real time mapping of optodes-scalp coupling in functional nearinfrared spectroscopy

Luca Pollonini, Heather Bortfeld, John S. Oghalai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Recent functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) instrumentation encompasses several dozen of optodes to enable reconstructing a hemodynamic image of the entire cerebral cortex. Despite its potential clinical applicability, widespread use of fNIRS with human subjects is currently limited by unresolved issues, namely the collection from the entirety of optical channels of signals with a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) sufficient to carry out a reliable estimation of cortical hemodynamics, and the considerable amount of time that placing numerous optodes take with individuals for whom achieving good optical coupling to the scalp is difficult due to thick or dark hair. To address these issues, we developed a numerical method that: 1) at the channel level, computes an objective measure of the signalto-noise ratio (SNR) related to its optical coupling to the scalp, akin to electrode conductivity used in electroencephalography (EEG), and 2) at the optode level, determines and displays the coupling status of all individual optodes in real time on a model of a human head. This approach aims to shorten the pre-acquisition preparation time by visually displaying which optodes require further adjustment for optimum scalp coupling, and to maximize the signalto-noise ratio (SNR) of all optical channels contributing to the functional hemodynamic mapping. The methodology described in this paper has been implemented in a software tool named PHOEBE (placing headgear optodes efficiently before experimentation) that is freely available for use by the fNIRS community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5104-5119
Number of pages16
JournalBiomedical Optics Express
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Functional monitoring and imaging
  • Medical optics instrumentation
  • Physiology
  • Spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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