Cognition-activated low-frequency modulation of light absorption in human brain

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Apr 15;90(8):3770-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.90.8.3770.


Animal model studies indicate light-absorption changes of the exposed animal brain in response to visual stimulation. Here we report observations of red-light absorbance changes, attributable to repetitive blood concentration changes in response to stimulation in the human brain frontal region by a cognitive process. These responses are observed as low-frequency recurrence of changes by Fourier transform analysis and are attributed to blood concentration change stimulated by the increased metabolic rate of brain tissue in cognitive function. A simple, portable dual wavelength spectrophotometer was attached noninvasively to the human forehead to measure the low frequency and power spectra of fluctuations of absorbances attributed to variations of brain blood concentration in the frontal region. The responses are associated with brain activity in responses to problem solving of analogies presented visually that require an associative function in the frontal region. The method of subtraction of test -rest Fourier transforms minimizes the arterial pulse frequency contributions and identifies specific frequencies--for example, 0.8, 1.6, 1.8 Hz in 24 of 28 tests of nine individuals (85%). Tests in which no increased brain activity was elicited (rest-rest) showed small differences. It is concluded that low-frequency recurrences of brain activity linked to blood concentration increases can be detected in human subjects with an optical device of potentially for simplified tests of cognitive function in the 0- to 3-Hz region and with modifications for wider band recordings in localized tissue volumes by time-resolved spectroscopy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Optical Devices
  • Oscillometry
  • Prosencephalon / blood supply
  • Prosencephalon / physiology*
  • Spectrophotometry / instrumentation
  • Spectrophotometry / methods