Decoding the infant mind: Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) usingfNIRS

Lauren L. Emberson, Benjamin D. Zinszer, Rajeev D.S. Raizada, Richard N. Aslin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The MRI environment restricts the types of populations and tasks that can be studied by cognitive neuroscientists (e.g., young infants, face-to-face communication). FNIRS is a neuroimaging modality that records the same physiological signal as fMRI but without the constraints of MRI, and with better spatial localization than EEG. However, research in the fNIRS community largely lacks the analytic sophistication of analogous fMRI work, restricting the application of this imaging technology. The current paper presents a method of multivariate pattern analysis for fNIRS that allows the authors to decode the infant mind (a key fNIRS population). Specifically, multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) employs a correlation-based decoding method where a group model is constructed for all infants except one; both average patterns (i.e., infant-level) and single trial patterns (i.e., trial-level) of activation are decoded. Between subjects decoding is a particularly difficult task, because each infant has their own somewhat idiosyncratic patterns of neural activation. The fact that our method succeeds at across-subject decoding demonstrates the presence of group-level multi-channel regularities across infants. The code for implementing these analyses has been made readily available online to facilitate the quick adoption of this method to advance the methodological tools available to the fNIRS researcher.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0172500
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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