Strengthening the Society: first steps towards standardization

By Alessandro Torricelli

Since its foundation in October 2014, our Society has been incessantly growing. The attendees at the last meeting in Paris in October 2016 largely outnumbered those in Montreal 2014 and London 2012. Similarly, the papers published in the Society’s journal Neurophotonics have been constantly increasing both in number and in quality. In this scenario, our Society is regularly promoting the exchange of ideas among old and new members through meetings, workshops and review papers.

Further steps towards the strengthening of our Society should involve constant attention to the adoption of best working practices and guidelines, easing the comparison of experimental results.

To this purpose, the Society is establishing a Standardization Committee, leaded by Alessandro Torricelli (Politecnico di Milano, Italy). The role of the Standardization Committee is to provide the fNIRS community (scientists, clinicians, industries) with a collection of best practice guidelines for supporting all aspects relevant to the fNIRS technique, from performance assessment of instrumentation to correct implementation of fNIRS measurements, from basic data analysis procedures to advanced statistical methods. Further, the Standardization Committee helps the working groups of international standard organizations ISO and IEC for the preparation of standard for fNIRS and cerebral oximeters.

The aim of this standardization initiative is to support the members of the Society, not to control them by introducing strict rules! We thoroughly feel that actual and future members of the Society share the need of a common framework of best practices and guidelines based on the mutual experience gained in the last years. We like to see this as a bottom up procedure that will have success thanks to the active contribution of many members.

The next operative steps will be identifying the members of the Standardization Committee and the main topics to work on (and who will contribute to what). We would like to present the first results at the next fNIRS 2018 meeting in Tokyo.

A tentative list of topics to be included in the activities of the Standardization Committee is the following:

  • Contributing to the preparation of international ISO/IEC standards on NIRS cerebral oximeters.
  • Creation of a database of in vivo optical properties of the human head (for guiding realistic simulations, for supporting data analysis, and for preparation of realistic phantom) and of specific absorption of tissue constituents (for estimating hemodynamic parameters, determining the relevance of other constituents like water, bone, and lipids).
  • Identifying procedures to monitor confounding systemic effects. Defining what systemic parameters (e.g. heart rate, blood pressure, skin conductance, …) to co-register during fNIRS measurements and how to quantify their effects on fNIRS measurements.
  • Defining a set of basic tests and tools (homogeneous/heterogeneous phantoms) to assess instrumentation (not only CW/FD/TD fNIRS, but also DCS) performance.
  • Creating a collection of easy to implement in vivo tests for basic validation of fNIRS (e.g. muscle cuff occlusion, multiple repositioning, Valsalva maneuver, bed tilt, motor task, …).
  • Defining data reporting procedures (e.g. always report oxy- and deoxy-genated hemoglobin data)
  • Definition of a standard data format and/or of conversion tools for different similar instruments.
  • Adopting a common terminology to avoid confusion and ease the wider acceptance of fNIRS in the clinical arena.

Clearly, most of the highlighted topics have been already tackled in papers and discussed at conferences and meetings. What we are lacking is an organic and comprehensive presentation of the main guidelines that should help the growth of our multidisciplinary community. Other topics may be missing, therefore, we ask you to indicate possible topics of interest.

We would like to stress again that this will be a dynamic process that with evolve hand on hand with the growth of the field, both technological and methodological. Contributions from members of the Society will be a valuable and essential method to boost and to maintain this initiative.

Please use the following (anonymous) Google form for contributing to the setting up of the standardization committee:

Will be great to have inputs from all of you.
This is important!