NIRS FAQ's

Is NIRS safe?

Yes! The red light used to make the measurements is very similar to the pulse oximeter that is routinely used on the finger or toe to measure oxygenation levels and is considered to present no significant risk. The energy of the light used in this test is many times less than energy we would receive from being outside on a sunny day. There is no known risk to this test, and we also perform routine testing to ensure the safety of our systems. For over 20 years, we have performed thousands of measurements in babies at Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Beth Israel Lahey Health with this light and have seen no side-effects thus far.

What happens during a NIRS measurement?

For each measurement, we use our FDNIRS-DCS device to shine a red light on your child’s skin, and sensitive detectors will receive the light. The way the child’s head reflects the red light tells us how much oxygen the brain is using and receiving. We may either hold a small sensor on your child’s head at multiple spots for a few seconds at a time or attach a soft and flexible sensor to their head without applying pressure. If your child is in the hospital, we will always check with their clinical team to make sure that we come to the bedside at an appropriate time. If you are visiting the hospital for a clinical or research appointment, we will coordinate with you to find a convenient time for the measurements. We perform our sessions gently to disrupt your child as little as possible. If at any time your child is showing signs of discomfort, the session can be terminated immediately.

Does my child need to be asleep for the NIRS measurement?

No! However, if possible, we try to do our light measurements when babies are asleep to reduce motion. If your child is awake, we try to perform our measurements in periods when they are still or moving less.

Can I be in the room with my child during the NIRS measurement?

We encourage you to be in the room along with your child when we perform the NIRS measurements. Two research team members will also be in the room the entire length of the measurement.

What if I want to stop the measurement?

Participating in our research is 100% voluntary, so you may stop at any time. If you are uncomfortable before or during the scan, we can stop the measurement immediately.

Can you show us our child's NIRS result?

Unfortunately, we cannot provide any individual results. Our device only provides us feedback of the quality of the information we are collecting. However, we can send you a copy of our publications once they are published if you are interested to see the group’s overall findings.

How can light give you information about the brain?

The light in the near-infrared range of spectrum can penetrate into a biological tissue, thus it can travel through the skull and the tissue of the brain. During their journey, the light particles get scattered and absorbed due to their interaction with the oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood in the tissue, and then gets reflected back. Our special detectors can detect the reflected light and gather information about the oxygenated content as well flow of blood based on the interaction between the light and brain tissue.