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Frontiers in Neuroscience



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Resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) has gained popularity mainly due to its simplicity and potential for providing insights into various brain disorders. In this vein, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is an attractive choice due to its portability, flexibility, and low cost, allowing for bedside imaging of brain function. While promising, fNIRS suffers from non-neural signal contaminations (i.e., systemic physiological noise), which can increase correlation across fNIRS channels, leading to spurious rsFC networks. In the present work, we hypothesized that additional measurements with short channels, heart rate, mean arterial pressure, and end-tidal CO2 could provide a better understanding of the effects of systemic physiology on fNIRS-based resting-state networks. To test our hypothesis, we acquired 12 min of resting-state data from 10 healthy participants. Unlike previous studies, we investigated the efficacy of different pre-processing approaches in extracting resting-state networks. Our results are in agreement with previous studies and reinforce the fact that systemic physiology can overestimate rsFC. We expanded on previous work by showing that removal of systemic physiology decreases intra- and inter-subject variability, increasing the ability to detect neural changes in rsFC across groups and over longitudinal studies. Our results show that by removing systemic physiology, fNIRS can reproduce resting-state networks often reported with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Finally, the present work details the effects of systemic physiology and outlines how to remove (or at least ameliorate) their contributions to fNIRS signals acquired at rest.