Philippa A. Jackson* and David O. Kennedy
Functional near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a non-invasive optical imaging technique used to monitor cerebral blood flow (CBF) and by proxy neuronal activation. The use of NIRS in nutritional intervention studies is a relatively novel application of this technique, with only a small, but growing, number of trials published to date. These trials—in which the effects on CBF following administration of dietary components such as caffeine, polyphenols and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are assessed—have successfully demonstrated NIRS as a sensitive measure of change in hemodynamic response during cognitive tasks in both acute and chronic treatment intervention paradigms. The existent research in this area has been limited by the constraints of the technique itself however advancements in the measurement technology, paired with studies endeavoring increased sophistication in number and locations of channels over the head should render the use of NIRS in nutritional interventions particularly valuable in advancing our understanding of the effects of nutrients and dietary components on the brain.