On September 7th 2017, 120 fNIRS developers and users gathered in London from across the
UK and beyond. As this was the first UK meeting, we had no idea how many people were involved in NIRS in the UK, let alone how many would come so we were delighted to get such a large number of enthusiastic people!
The aims of the meeting were primarily to connect the UK community, share our research and expertise, foster collaboration and discuss the role of fNIRS UK in the future. With the first step successfully completed with a full lecture theatre, we settled into a day of exciting talks, poster presentations, and discussions.
The programme was varied, exemplified by the keynote talks from Professor Jem Hebden, University College London, and Mr. Daniel Leff, Imperial College London, who presented their work in pioneering instrumentation in diffuse optical tomography and monitoring brain function in surgeons, respectively. Jem opened the meeting with a nice introduction to diffuse optical tomography and some beautiful (if distressing) images of the neonatal brain during seizures. Daniel closed the meeting with a fascinating application of the technology, showing that fNIRS is able to assess neural attention in real-life surgical settings. The other seven presentations were no less diverse, from neonatal brain injury to human computer interaction, and many talks on new fNIRS work in neurodevelopment. It seems the strengths of the UK community lie in its diversity.
An energetic poster session occurred in the afternoon, with 29 posters displaying new technologies, such as wearable NIRS and NIRS combined with diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS), new NIRS analysis packages, as well as a large range of neuroscience investigations using fNIRS.
To conclude the meeting, Dr Hamid Dehghani, University of Birmingham, commentated on a lively interactive discussion session. Using an online real-time poll, we found out that everyone enjoyed the day and wanted to meet again.
We asked what the biggest barrier was to fNIRS work, with a large number of respondents identifying training as the answer. Based on this, we assessed where each researcher feels their strengths and weaknesses are. Interestingly, there was a mismatch between the community’s perceived expertise and training needs; it will be a challenge to reconcile this. In the first instance it would appear that the best use of fNIRS UK will be to create a network of training platforms to share knowledge where it is needed. As one attendee put it, the purpose of fNIRS UK should be “to have a community that helps others learn and improve their research”.
Overall, we had an ‘illuminating’ day with lots of ideas for the future. We are grateful to our sponsors, Shimadzu, Gowerlabs, and Rogue Resolutions, who enabled us to host a free event and bring all the UK community together. We’re looking forward to fNIRS 2018 and excited to create a dynamic and supportive UK community!
Gemma Bale, Chair of fNIRS UK 2017
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