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SfNIRS Newsletter March 2023

Welcome to the March 2023 issue of the SfNIRS newsletter, covering the period from May 2022 (yes, May 2022!) to February 2023. It has been almost a year! During this time, the pandemic has ended for the majority of us and most are back on campus, we have our most successful conference to date in Boston, and we have already started working on the next one, which will take place in Birmingham. Ten months is a lot; not surprisingly, we have a lot of material and stories to share.

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SfNIRS Newsletter May 2022

Welcome to the May 2022 issue of the SfNIRS newsletter, covering the period from January 2022 through April 2022. The Society’s biennial meeting, fNIRS 2022, is fast approaching, the program is ready, registration for courses and abstract submissions are open, and preparations are going smoothly. Much is going on in the fNIRS world: an EDI committee has been formed, the communications committee has many new faces, and you likely have noticed an increase in society-related emails. Here is a summary of all that has been going on over the last few months.

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fNIRS-UK 2023 coming at University of Essex

By Javier Andreu-Pérez

We are delighted to inform you about the upcoming two-day event symposium, FNIRS UK, which is being organized by the UK sfNIRS community. The event is aimed at providing a platform for colleagues in the United Kingdom and the European Union to come together and exchange valuable insights and experiences in the field of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). We cordially invite you to attend this occasion, which promises to be an enriching experience for all participants, filled with keynote speeches, interactive workshops, oral and poster sessions.

The event will be held on 14-15 September 2023 in the University of Essex Campus, in Colchester, United Kingdom. Please mark your calendars accordingly. For more information, please check https://fnirs.uk and in twitter @fnirs_uk

Important Dates:

  • Call for Abstracts: Deadline for submission of abstracts contributions 31st May
  • Call for Workshops: Deadline for submission of proposals 15th May

We look forward to your participation at the FNIRS UK symposium.

Wrap-up of fNIRS 2022, Boston: Celebrating the return of the live conference

By Ippeita Dan, Chuo University, Japan

After two rounds of extensions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, fNIRS2022, the Biennial Meeting of the Society for functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (SfNIRS) was FINALLY held in Boston from October 9-12, 2022. It was preceded by five-day virtual sessions starting on October 3, and two-day educational courses October 8-9. Although traveling overseas was still limited for people from many countries, the conference was a great success, attracting 519 participants, with 407 attending onsite and 112 online. These numbers represent the largest participation pool in the history of SfNIRS. Imagine how big it would have been if the pandemic were completely over. Actually, that might have caused over-capacity issues… In any event, total attendance was a large enough number to make it clear that the fNIRS community is getting bigger.

But the pandemic wasn’t over. Because of that, we still experienced differential influence by geographical regions: 65% of the onsite participants were coming from North America, while attendance by European and Asia-Oceanian researchers was limited to 22% and 11%, respectively. Participants from other regions amounted to only 2%. (But we’re grateful for that 2%!) Thus, from the perspective of regional diversity in conference participation, we are still on our way to recovery. I hope pandemic-related impacts will be completely nullified by the time of our next conference, fNIRS2024, to take place in Birmingham, UK.

In contrast to regional representation, fNIRS2022 succeeded in maintaining gender and generation balance. The male-to-female ratio of attendants was almost 48% to 46%, with the other 6% chosing not to identify, or identifying as nonbinary. Such biologically-based natural sampling is rarely achieved in any scientific community, and SfNIRS is very proud that our community maintains gender equality as a cultural norm. Finally, the student ratio of participants was 40%, showing that younger generations are playing active roles in the Society. This is another tradition successfully maintained in the SfNIRS culture. Let’s keep it that way!

Overall success of the conference can be largely attributed to the super-hardworking conference chair, Mari Angela Franceschini, of Massachusetts General Hospital. Mari provided superb hospitality and versatile administrative management. Her multi-functionality is embodied in the schematic figure shown below.

Mari the Lobster embodying super multi-functionality in fNIRS 2022, Boston

Many of her hands were further supported by co-chairs. Of particular note, Sabrina Brigadoi at University of Padova, acted as a Virtual Session Chair. Indeed, the virtual part of the conference was well-organized, offering five days of virtual-only material. This included three poster blitz sessions on Zoom with selected presenters performing three-minute oral presentations. Another session, Virtual Posters in the Spotlight, featured ten-minute oral presentations selected virtual-only presenters. Following these virtual presentations, we even had interactive sessions in GatherTown, where participants enjoyed virtual discussions with poster presenters.

Virtual poster presentation in Gather Town

Another of Mari’s hands was further supported by the Educational Course Chair, Meryem Yücel, of Boston University. Meryem organized the pre-conference educational courses, with valuable contributions from the Education Committee chair, Judit Gervain, of University of Padova, Italy. Expanding on the single day introductory courses offered in the meeting in Tokyo, the Educational Courses for fNIRS 2022 were two days, with 26 parallel sessions. These dealt with diverse technical topics such as time-domain fNIRS, EEG-NIRS corregistration, statistical programming using R, and much more. Moreover, there was no need to be perplexed by heavy technical topics because Rob Cooper, University College London, UK, provided an excellent opening introductory lecture. Taken together, the Educational Courses provided valuable overviews on updates in fNIRS methodological development.

Left. Opening lecture by Rob Cooper. Right. Meryem Yücel chairing the educational course.

Yet another of Mari’s hands supported ME acting as the Program Chair. I was very excited to experience a live conference after the long dark ages of the pandemic. It was particularly wonderful to hear the Keynote Address by Joy Hirsch of Yale University, which focused on social interaction as measured in her recent hyper-scanning studies. The audience could appreciate the importance of social interaction based on her enthusiastic talk alone, and we were very proud to have her confirm for us that fNIRS is the best neuroimaging modality to study social interaction.

Keynote talk by Joy Hirsch focusing on hyperscanning fNIRS on social interaction.

The other special talk was presented by Bruce Tromberg, Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). At NIBIB, Bruce oversees research projects on biomedical imaging totaling approximately $400 million per year. In his talk, Bruse stressed the importance of strategic research investment in newly developing areas of biomedical imaging, including fNIRS. Indeed, there was an encouraging slide showing a steady increase in the amount of research funding available for biomedical imaging studies.

Bruce Tromberg with a graph showing the increasing bio-med imaging budget.

During the conference we had oral presentations across nine sessions, each including several selected short talks and an invited speaker. The topics covered neurodevelopment, preclinical and clinical studies, neonatal clinical applications, social neuroscience, data analysis, hardware, fNIRS methodology, and cognitive neuroscience. These were presented sequentially rather than in parallel session, which enabled us all to share in learning about the state-of-the-art in fNIRS research. There were poster sessions, of course, as well as a rejuvenating lunch each day. Thanks to the administrative assistant, Ms. Stacey Ladieu, lunch and snacks were available (and delicious) throughout the conference. I would say this is almost a miracle to experience in such an expensive city as Boston. Anyhow, the good lunches made us happy and relaxed and able to enjoy subsequent poster-viewing and discussions with presenters in a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. There was a vegetarian option lunch and, coincidentally, two invited presentations featuring vegetable measurement by fNIRS. One, presented by Masami Yamaguchi of Chuo University, Japan, introduced infants’ recognition of vegetables and facial expressions (or maybe vice versa).

Masami Yamaguchi infants’ recognition of vegetables and face expression.

The other was by Gregory Fischer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York talking about neuro-monitoring of patients in critical conditions, which included the introduction of real vegetable measurement by fNIRS.

Gregory Fischer comment on fNIRS measurements on vegetables [Kahn & Anyanwu, Eur J Anaesthiol, 2018]

There was also a Special Session, “Neuroergonomics: fNIRS on the go”, organized by Hasan Ayaz at Drexel University, Philadelphia. This session focused on real-world application of fNIRS beyond conventional artificial laboratory settings. The use of unrestricted real-world tasks in everyday contexts and their relationship to action, behavior, body, and environment was introduced and discussed by panelists from a range of research domains. This was a great session, highlighting the degree to which fNIRS offers unique research opportunities to engage in real-world brain measurement. This work is cultivating new frontiers in neuroimaging studies!

The other feature of the conference was the introduction of a new award to facilitate the active growth of the Society and fNIRS research more generally. The new award, SfNIRS Community Award, was presented to Meryem Yucel, Felix Sholkmann, and ‪Noman Naseer. Recipients of the traditional awards were also announced: the Young Investigator Award was presented to Alexander von Lühmann, with runner-up going to Chiara Bulgarelli. Excellence Awards were given to ten posters and four oral presentations. In addition, to facilitate gender equality, Woman Excellence in Research Awards were presented to nine presentations. Finally, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Travel Award were presented to ten participants from countries with travel challenges.

Left: Early Investigator Awardee Alexander von Lühmann. Right: Runner-up Chiara Bulgarelli.

Last but not least, there was a wonderful social event held in a dance club at downtown Boston. This included a live performance by a local R&B band playing disco classics with an energetic groove. This let young and young-at-heart participants “freak out” on the dance floor. The excellent selection of social events seems like a good tradition to maintain at the SfNIRS Biennial Conference, and we hope this will continue at future conferences.

Social event on a dance club with a live band performance (from fNIRS official twitter).

We must not forget to acknowledge the great contributions of our sponsors of the conference, whose support helped us realize a great event in a difficult time. Now that live conferences are back on the scene in our society, we hope to see EVERYONE in person at the next conference, fNIRS2024, Birmingham, UK. The next meeting will be chaired by Felipe Orihuela-Espina, Hamid Dehghani, and Javier Andreu-Pérez at the University of Birmingham. Indeed, its success was “wish-locked” at a secret at nearby Fenway Park, Boston.

I am not sure whether I have fully conveyed the extent of “academic glamor” of fNIRS2022, Boston, but I hope this report will help get everyone interested in attending forthcoming conferences, and in participating in SfNIRS activities.

Great success being wish-locked for fNIRS 2024 in Birmingham

fNIRS in animal research

By Rens Burghardt

As our community has grown considerably throughout the years, it’s worth taking a step back to explore the many different, and perhaps surprising, ways that research is conducted in our field. Here, we briefly explore the different uses of fNIRS in animal research and opportunities for using fNIRS in animal monitoring in particular.

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BIDS-fNIRS (bfnirs) in the Cloud

By Meryem Yücel and David Boas

Now that fNIRS has established the SNIRF file format for fNIRS data and this has been incorporated into the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS) standard for the organization of neuroimaging datasets, we the fNIRS community should endeavor to broadly adopt this data set organization specification. The full specification is accessible directly at https://bids.neuroimaging.io/ and also through https://openneuro.org.

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fNIRS 2024 at the University of Birmingham – Initial preparations

By Erin Buckley, Hamid Dehghani, Javier Andreu-Pérez and Felipe Orihuela-Espina

Dear SfNIRSers,

As you know by now, our next biennial meeting will be held at the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) on September 11th to 15th, 2024, and we are already planning for it.

Samuel A. Montero-Hernandez has been appointed virtual chair.
We have assembled the program committee with distinguished researchers from around the world and across subdisciplines:

BulgarelliChiaraBirkbeck CollegeUKEurope
SchmitzChristophHTW BerlinGermanyEurope
von LuhmannAlexBerlin Institute of TechnologyGermanyEurope
BrigadoiSabrinaUniversity of PadovaItalyEurope
Benavides-VarelaSilviaUniversity of PadovaItalyEurope
LeffDanImperial College LondonUKEurope
MesquitaRicksonUniversidad do CampinasBrazilSouthAmerica
HightonDavidUniversity of QueenslandAustraliaAustralia
DiopMamadouUniversity of Western OntarioCanadaNorthAmerica
YucelMeryemBoston UniversityUSANorthAmerica
PerlmanSusan B.Washington University- St. LouisUSANorthAmerica
GuevaraEdgarUniversidad Autonoma de San Luis PotosíMexicoNorthAmerica
LeeSeung YupKennesaw State UniversityUSANorthAmerica
FerradalSilvinaIndiana UniversityUSANorthAmerica
ChhabraHarleenNational Institute of Mental Health and NeurosciencesIndiaAsia
Al-ShargieFaresAmerican University of SharjahUAEAsia
NiuHaijingBeijing Normal UniversityChinaAsia
TakSunghoKorea Basic Science InstituteKoreaAsia

Locally, we have been working with the University of Birmingham campus services to identify appropriate space and arrange catering details. We are happy to announce that we are now ready to plan for the oral presentations and the workshops. These will take place in our impressive Teaching and Learning Center with capacity for 500 attendants, whereas posters and sponsor stalls will be in the magnificent Great Hall located in the Aston Webb building.

We are also working on launching the conference website and designing a unique conference logo. We will soon put out a call for sponsors.

While there is still a lot to do, preparations are moving forward. We are excited to host you here in Birmingham!

Introducing our “fNIRS in the Lab” photo series!

By Louisa Gossé

We are looking for contributions to our “fNIRS in the Lab” photo series! Do you have a fun(ny) picture of your fNIRS set-up? Or want to share what your fNIRS testing looks like with fNIRS community? 

Send us your photo along with a small description of what it is you are researching (and where)! We will share it in the upcoming weeks on our social media pages.

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SfNIRS’s solidarity with Turkey and Syria

The SfNIRS Society and its members are heartbroken by the tragic loss of many lives as a result of the earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria on Feb 6th, 2023. We express our solidarity and support with all those who were affected by this terrible tragedy. Anyone wishing to make a donation to help the people affected please consider the following organizations:

fNIRS 2022 Updates

By Maria Angela Franceschini and Ippeita Dan

We are excited about the return of our meeting face-to-face! fNIRS 2022 will be held in Boston between October 9th and 12th. As the date for our biennial meeting approaches, the last few months have been hectic. If you have been following us on social media, you surely are aware of some of the goings-on. But if you’ve missed the announcements, the following provides a summary.

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