Document Type


Date of Original Version



Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering


This review presents a practical primer for functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) with respect to technology, experimentation, and analysis software. Its purpose is to jump-start interested practitioners considering utilizing a non-invasive, versatile, nevertheless challenging window into the brain using optical methods. We briefly recapitulate relevant anatomical and optical foundations and give a short historical overview. We describe competing types of illumination (trans-illumination, reflectance, and differential reflectance) and data collection methods (continuous wave, time domain and frequency domain). Basic components (light sources, detection, and recording components) of fNIRS systems are presented. Advantages and limitations of fNIRS techniques are offered, followed by a list of very practical recommendations for its use. A variety of experimental and clinical studies with fNIRS are sampled, shedding light on many brain-related ailments. Finally, we describe and discuss a number of freely available analysis and presentation packages suited for data analysis. In conclusion, we recommend fNIRS due to its ever-growing body of clinical applications, state-of-the-art neuroimaging technique and manageable hardware requirements. It can be safely concluded that fNIRS adds a new arrow to the quiver of neuro-medical examinations due to both its great versatility and limited costs.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.