Global NIRS Challenges Updates

Opportunities to integrate NIRS into global health projects are rapidly expanding and several research groups are addressing the challenges that lie ahead in advancing the technique as a successful neuroimaging tool in resource poor settings. An inspirational feature of these projects are the multi-institute  cross-disciplinary collaborations that are formed to achieve this work.

The BRIGHT Project

Sarah Lloyd-Fox

Information on the  The BRIGHT Project in The Gambia can be found at This collaborative project sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation follows individuals from birth, through infancy and into toddlerhood (0 – 2 years) in The Gambia and UK. We are using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), electroencephalograms (EEG), eye-tracking, and growth, family, environment and behavioral measures (i.e. Mullen Scales of Early Learning, language, parent-infant interactions) to study the association between exposure to early adversities (i.e. nutrition, psychosocial, health) and cognitive development. Our goals are to map patterns of brain function and behaviour across a large cohort of infants, which will enable us to develop appropriate interventions and tools for use in low-income and/or rural settings.


Brain Imaging as a Measure of Future Cognitive Outcomes in Children

Katherine Perdue

This collaborative project sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is introducing a neuroimaging toolkit in urban Bangladesh to study brain structure and function in infants and toddlers. We are using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), electroencephalograms (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),  eye-tracking, and behavioral measures (Mullen Scales of Early Learning and executive functioning tasks) to study the association between exposure to early adversities (e.g., biological, environmental, psychosocial) and cognitive development in children of Bangladesh. The goal is to develop a database on early brain development, which can potentially be deployed globally, particularly in low resource settings where adversities are abundant.

Last updates were  presented  at a session called “Multi-method neuroimaging study of the impact of global adversity on the brain development in Bangladeshi children” at the Society for Research on Child Development meeting in April 2017.

Locally Prepared Supplement to Support Growth and Brain Health

Gary Boas

Following a successful pilot study in June 2016, the Martinos Center’s Maria Angela Franceschini and Pei-Yi (Ivy) Lin returned to Guinea-Bissau in January 2017 to participate in a larger study. This study, led by Susan Roberts, a nutritional professor from Tufts University, is a randomized controlled trial with the primary goal of assessing whether eating a locally prepared nutritional supplement can aid in the prevention of malnutrition and stunting of growth, compared to standard village practices.

Twelve villages and 1100 kids aged 1.5 to 6.9 years old are participating in the within-village randomization. The supplemental intervention will last 24 weeks. The primary outcome will be cognitive tests of executive function. Secondary outcomes will be changes in standard anthropometric benchmarks of growth, hemoglobin and skin carotenoids in young children living in villages in rural Guinea-Bissau. In addition, as a sub-study led by Dr. Franceschini, cerebral blood flow and hemoglobin concentration will be measured at the onset and end of the study and compared to dietary intervention, cognitive tests and anthropometric measures. With the support of PicoQuant, Drs. Lin and Franceschini spent eight days in January in rural Guinea-Bissau, measuring 400 kids in seven villages with a combined frequency-domain near infrared Spectroscopy and a diffuse correlation spectroscopy system. They will return to these villages at the end of June to conduct the endpoint measurements.

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Promoting Literacy Development in Rural Cocoa Communities in Ivory Coast: Project Updates

Kaja Jasinska

This project sponsored by the Jacobs Foundation (Early Career Fellowship to K. Jasinska) is studying how the young child’s emerging neural reading circuit is shaped by environments that carry a high risk of illiteracy. We combine fNIRS imaging with behavioural linguistic and cognitive developmental markers to study reading development in children living in rural Ivory Coast many of whom are laborers on cocoa plantations.

April 2017 has been a busy month of research activities. Some of our team members were busy collecting data in three villages in southern Ivory Coast. Two team members (Christelle Kakou and Sosthène Guei; graduate students at the Center for Research and Peace Action in Abidjan, Ivory Coast) participated in the 2017 SRCD Biennial Meeting in Austin, Texas (see our work). Both were also trained on the use of the Shimadzu LightNIRS system. This training comes in preparation for data collection planned for May and June 2017 using the fNIRS system.

We are also looking forward to sharing this work in the upcoming MexNIRS conference.