SfNIRS Newsletter November 2020

Welcome to the November 2020 issue of the SfNIRS newsletter, covering the period from July 2020 through October 2020. The news continues to be dominated by the COVID19 Pandemic, but the fNIRS datablitz demonstrated that activity remains high in labs around the world. Our community is resilient! In addition to lab-specific research, many activities supported by the society have been ongoing: educational tutorials, research webinars, and of course continued planning on the part of the SfNIRS Communications Committee. Here is a summary of events…

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Communication strategy: diagnostic and planning

By Sergio Novi, Heather Bortfeld and Felipe Orihuela-Espina.

The SfNIRS have now several communications channels through which we aim to keep you updated and received your contributions; our mailing list managed from MailChimp, the bidirectional Facebook group where you can post your more recent fNIRS related news, our periodical newsletter summarizing the latest period, the society website for archiving and providing members only content, and the more recents Twitter account and YouTube channel. In this latter, you can find tutorials and webinars among others. Handling all these required us to sit and think about having a coherent strategy. Here is a summary of our diagnostics and new ideas. Please, give us your feedback!

Current Status:

  • FB Group: The FB is doing very well by itself. There is a heavy involvement of the community with researchers and industry posting their advances, such as papers, and are advertising meetings, etc.
  • Newsletter: We are doing 3-4 letters per year. Our statistics indicate that they are welcome in general, but perhaps we are falling trapped of a repetitive format.
  • Website: The website is functional, the info is being updated and has recently incorporated members only material. It has now integrated the previous function covered by club-express membership.
  • Mail list: Mails seem to be the more effective way of communication and outreach. We think it works well because their frequency is small not to be perceived as a nuisance.
  • Twitter: It has only 6 posts since July, so thus far, we have a content-related problem.
  • Youtube Channel: There are no open videos -all videos are unlisted- and we have only 33 subscribers. Again, this suggests that we have a content-related problem although this may only be the consequence of the channel still being very recent.

New ideas

  • Our mail list can be a means by which we can invite people to create and post content to the YouTube channel.
  • In next edition of the newsletter, we should introduce the society YouTube channel and invite people to create content (ppt slides introducing lab and specific research focus).
  • The “interview” concept that Gemma Bale started with Turgut in the last newsletter is great; we could use those interviews as content in the YouTube channel. We are inviting you to
  • More people are now submitting announcements about open positions more regularly to us, particularly as they see that their position announcements go straight to the website. We should keep encouraging this, yet still reviewing the social media with every newsletter issue.

We are asking you to…

  • Subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t yet done so.
  • Generate new YouTube content that you want us to share openly or unlisted in the society channel. In particular, we are inviting you to send us very short videos (4-5mins) about your work. Do it your own way! Ppt slides made into “videos” about individual labs, “tutorials” about individual approaches/software/analysis, whatever!
  • Share your links with us so that we can post to Twitter (we’ll post to avoid spam/bots)
  • Send us any new ideas and/or that you would like to see both on the website and the newsletter. Also, send us your critics and feedback on how you think we can improve.
  • Get involved in any way you like!

2nd Educational Tutorial

By Judit Gervain.

To encourage diversity and inclusion, the 2nd Educational Tutorial entitled “The basic principles of fNIRS” was held in Spanish on Sept 18th. The lecture was given by Silvia Benavides-Varela. Approximately 20 participants from 5 different countries in North and South America participated. They all expressed great interest and were very excited to get connected to each other and the larger fNIRS community. The Education Committee hopes to follow up with other similar initiatives increasing diversity.

Para fomentar la diversidad y la inclusión, el 18 de septiembre el Comité de Educación organizó el 2º Tutorial (en español) titulado “Los principios básicos de fNIRS”. La conferencia estuvo a cargo de Silvia Benavides-Varela de la Universidad de Padova. Participaron aproximadamente 20 personas de 5 países de América del Norte y del Sur.  Los participantes expresaron un gran interés por la materia, por establecer contactos con otros colegas y con la comunidad fNIRS en general. El Comité de Educación espera dar seguimiento a otras iniciativas similares que aumenten la diversidad.

Openfnirs database

By Meryem Yücel and David Boas

As a community, we always encourage data sharing. The availability of openly accessible data both facilitates the reproducibility of the research findings, but, as importantly, opens up opportunities for new discoveries and interpretations without the repetition of the work. Now, we have a great platform to do just that!

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SfNIRS Newsletter July 2020

Welcome to the July 2020 issue of the SfNIRS newsletter, which covers the period from March 2020 through June 2020. This period has been dominated by the COVID19 pandemic, which has been difficult for research and business. We have had to adapt to the circumstances, including scarce access to our laboratories, restricted movement, a switch to virtual meetings and conferences, among other things. Nonetheless, it has been a period full of news. Here, you’ll find what we think is a complete summary.

The communications committee looks forward to hearing from you about future news items you’d like to see posted.

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The pulse oximeter, Covid-19 and the legacy of Dr, Takuo Aoyagi

By Rob Cooper.

In the midst of a global pandemic that has seen hundreds of thousands lose their lives to respiratory failure, the Japanese medical device giant Nihon Kohden quietly announced the death at 84 of their long-time employee, Dr. Takuo Aoyagi: the inventor of the pulse oximeter.

The pulse oximeter, which will be familiar to many as the small sensor that clips over a patient’s finger and emits a gentle red glow, is by any measure one of the most successful medical instruments in history. It provides a continuous measurement of pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation- a measure of the level of oxygen in the blood that is a key marker of respiratory and heart failure. A pulse oximeter can be found at the side of every hospital bed and in every operating theatre, while similar technology is increasingly common to consumer devices from fitness trackers to baby monitors.  The pulse oximeter has saved countless lives. Its introduction in the late 1970s coincided with a 90% decrease in deaths during anaesthesia, which is just one area of application.

Blood, Light and Oxygen

The pulse oximeter is, like all great inventions, remarkably simple. It uses two colours of light (usually red and near-infrared) shone through the finger to measure changes in the concentration of the oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor forms of haemoglobin: the molecule that carries oxygen around the bloodstream. This is possible because haemoglobin that is rich with oxygen is a much brighter red colour than haemoglobin that has had its oxygen stripped away by the cells of the body.

The idea that light could be used to yield measurements related to oxygen saturation dates back to the 1870s, and was built upon extensively during WWII in an effort to develop a system to warn allied pilots if their oxygen levels became perilously low. But it was not until 1974, and the work Dr. Aoyagi, that a method was developed to take these optical signals and produce a measure of oxygen saturation that was accurate enough to impact patients.

Noise to Signal

Dr. Takuo Aoyagi was born on 14th February, 1936 in Niigata Prefecture in Japan.  He studied electrical engineering at Niigata University, graduating in 1958. Soon after, Dr. Aoyagi came across a quote from the founder of the Nihon Kohden Corporation, Dr. Yoshio Ogino, which read “a skilled physician can treat only a limited number of patients, but an excellent medical instrument can treat countless patients across the world”. By 1971, Dr. Aoyagi was leading a small team at Nihon Kohden, and had been issued a simple challenge by his manager: “develop something unique”.

Dr. Aoyagi set about developing a sensor that could inform doctors when a patient’s respiratory system was failing to the point where they needed artificial ventilation. Previous efforts to make use of light to measure oxygen levels had failed to yield a useful device because of their dependence on convoluted calibration procedures. One such approach relied on the repeated compression and release of the upper arm.

Dr. Aoyagi’s initial investigations were severely hampered by noise in his optical measurement, noise that was due to the regular surge of oxygenated blood that flows through our bodies with every heartbeat. His real breakthrough came with the realisation that this pulsatile signal could itself provide a method of calibration. By comparing the size of the peaks and troughs that came with each heartbeat, Dr. Aoyagi was able to demonstrate a simple and accurate measurement of the oxygen saturation.

Happy Hypoxia

In the last few weeks, the importance of pulse oximeters in the treatment of coronavirus patients has led to a surge in interest in the now-ubiquitous device. In a New York Times op-ed publish two days after the death of Dr. Aoyagi, emergency physician Dr. Richard Levitan argued that “all persons with cough, fatigue and fevers should have pulse oximeter monitoring even if they have not had virus testing”.  This was in response to patients presenting with what has been misleadingly dubbed “happy hypoxia” – a state of perilously low oxygen saturation that seems to occur in some Covid-19 patients without being accompanied by a shortness of breath.

Dr. Aoyagi’s pulse oximeter would normally read between 90 and 99% in a healthy person, but there have been reports of Covid-19 patients exhibiting oxygen saturations at low as 50% without overt breathing difficulties.

While many clinicians have expressed concern that a surge in the at-home use of pulse oximeters could do more harm than good, Dr. Levitan’s suggestion has been echoed by others, including by some doctors in the UK NHS, who argue that distributing pulse oximeters to the most vulnerable could help identify those developing severe cases of Covid-19.

No matter the outcome of this debate, it is clear that the importance of this small, little-celebrated device has never been greater, and that Dr. Aoyagi’s death has coincided with a reaffirmation of the impact he has had on countless patients across the world.


Research Webinars

By Felix Scholkmann.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This post corresponds to the news as it appeared included in the SfNIRS newsletter July 2020 issue, and it is kept for archive purposes. For a confirmed list of webinars, please check the webinars page.

Call for speakers

Starting soon, SfNIRS is organizing monthly SfNIRS Research Webinars giving early career researchers and junior scientists the opportunity to give a talk about their work in the field of fNIRS. For example, you may wish to share a recently published study. Sessions should last around 40 mins (plus 20 min discussion).

If you are interested in giving a talk, please email Felix.Scholkmann@usz.ch

We look forward to hearing your insights.

The SfNIRS Research Webinar Committee:

Felix Scholkmann (chair); Sabrina Brigadoi, Swetha Dravida, Thomas Dresler, Lauren Emberson, Jessica Gemignani, Yoko Hakuno, Kaja Jasinska, John Sunwoo, Sungho Tak

We received already applications to give a talk from:

Name, EmailInstitutionTopic
Jonas FischerICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences Mediterranean Technology ParkTalk about the non-invasive estimation of intracranial pressure based on the pulsatile cerebral blood flow measured with DCS and machine learning algorithms. Recently, we have published this in the Journal of Neurotrauma
Sarah RöschUni Leipzig, GermanyfNIRS neurofeedback with patients having binge-eating disorder
Hamoon ZohdiUni Bern, SwitzerlandfNIRS study about color exposures
David RosenbaumUni Tübingen, GermanyfNIRS in psychotherapeutic settings (provocation designs and in situ measurements)
Mario ForcioneUniversity Hospitals Birmingham, UKContrast-enhanced NIRS with Indocyanine Green in acute moderate and severe traumatic brain injury
Satoshi MorimotoJapanfNIRS hyperscanning

Educational Tutorials

By Judit Gervain

The first online Educational Tutorial was held on July 1st, 2020 with an introduction to the basic principles of fNIRS by Hellmuth Obrig. The tutorial was a great success with participants from 14 different countries from 4 continents, Africa, Asia, North America and Europe. Thanks a lot to all the attendees and to Hellmuth for the exciting and very engaging presentation!

The upcoming program of the tutorial series will be posted on the Society’s Facebook page over the coming weeks. The tutorials will cover a wide variety of specific subjects in fNIRS methodology, in an interactive, and whenever relevant, hands-on manner, e.g. for software demos.

The tutorials will be available to the Society’s members. They will be recorded and the videos will be made available as members-only content on the Society’s website.

Research Webinars and Educational Tutorials

By Clare Elwell.

We are setting up online activities to keep our community connected in the absence of face to face meetings.

Felix Scholkmann is chairing our new Research Webinar committee who are planning a regular series of research talks from a broad range of speakers to discuss recent findings and future directions for fNIRS. We are particularly looking forward to hearing from early career researchers in this programme.

The Educational Committee, chaired by Judit Gervain, are developing a syllabus of online Educational Tutorials covering a range of topics and aimed at those wishing to enhance their knowledge in particular technical and application aspects of the technology. To enable interactive content some of these sessions will have a limited number of attendees.

These events will initially be scheduled to take place at 3pm Central Europe (9am Eastern US, 10pm Japan) to try and accommodate different time zones as best we can. With the exception of the first events (which can be thought of as tasters) these events will only be open to SfNIRS members. Our intention is to record the content make it available on the members only section of our website.