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NIRS-measured prefrontal cortex activity in neuroergonomics: strengths and weaknesses

Abstract : Contemporary daily life is more and more characterized by ubiquitous interaction with computational devices and systems. For example, it is commonplace for a person walking a busy street, to be engaged in conversation with a distant person using telephony, while simultaneously receiving directions via a GPS-enabled web application on their mobile device. This overwhelming increase in human-computer interactions has prompted the need for a better understanding of how brain activity is shaped by performing sensorimotor actions in the physical world. In this context, neuroergonomics aims at bridging the gap between the abundant flow of information contained within a person's technological environment and related brain activity in order to adapt machine settings and facilitate optimal human-computer interactions (Parasuraman, 2013). One way to achieve this goal consists in developing adaptive systems. In neuroergonomics, adaptive automation relies on passive brain-computer interfaces (BCI) capable of spotting brain signatures linked to the operator's cognitive state in order to adjust in real-time the operator's technological environment. With the growing area of interest in this topic, the need for neuroimaging methods properly suited to ecological experimental settings has risen. In this vein, near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) presents some advantages as compared to other neuroimaging methods. In this opinion article, we first concentrate on the benefits of utilizing NIRS for investigation in neuroergonomics. Recent neuroergonomics investigations have used NIRS recordings in a number of laboratories (e.g., Ayaz et al., 2012; Mandrick et al., 2013a,b). It is particularly worth noting that most of these investigations have reported NIRS data from the prefrontal cortex (PFC). We provide a brief review of these recent studies and their impact in the field by presenting a detailed analysis of the applicability of NIRS-measured PFC activity to discriminate cognitive states in real life environments. In this paper, we will address two main questions: are NIRS-derived hemodynamic variables sufficiently sensitive to changes in sustained attention when measured over the PFC area? Are these measures useful for delineating different levels of mental workload?
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Gérard Derosière, Kévin Mandrick, Gérard Dray, Tomas Ward, Stéphane Perrey. NIRS-measured prefrontal cortex activity in neuroergonomics: strengths and weaknesses. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Frontiers, 2013, 7, ⟨10.3389/fnhum.2013.00583⟩. ⟨hal-02954054⟩

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