Near-infrared optical topography (NIROT) signals and event-related potentials (ERPs) were measured simultaneously during a semantic processing task to evaluate the ability of these techniques to detect hemodynamic and electrophysiologic responses generated by semantic anomalies and to compare these results to earlier independent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and ERP measurements. Candidate brain regions were first identified from activations detected by NIROT during a simple block-design task (in this case reading sentences vs. passive viewing), and defined regions (corresponding to Broca's and Wernicke's areas) were used for guiding the localization of optodes and electrodes for recording during tasks involving semantic anomalies. In five of six subjects, ERP measurements showed the characteristic N400 wave, whereas event-related NIROT showed results that agreed with previous fMRI studies. There were transient hemodynamic signals recorded in specific optodes that corresponded to activation in Broca's area, but slightly anterior to the region activated during the simple reading task, and in Wernicke's area, but slightly inferior to that for the simple reading task. A between-subject correlation of the ERP and NIRS data was also employed to identify areas of activation. The highest correlations were obtained in Broca's area, centered more anterior than for the reading task and in Wernicke's area, slightly inferior to that for the reading task. This study confirms that event-related studies are feasible using NIROT and produce results similar to those obtained with fMRI. Even though the spatial resolution is lower in NIROT than in fMRI, small differences in the locations of activation centers could be detected with NIROT. This, together with the feasibility of simultaneous ERP recording, makes NIROT attractive as a new approach to studying language function in healthy subjects as well as in those with functional abnormalities.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.