A promising tool to explore functional impairment in neurodegeneration: A systematic review of near-infrared spectroscopy in dementia.
This systematic review aimed to evaluate previous studies which used near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) in dementia given its suitability as a diagnostic and investigative tool in this population. From 800 identified records which used NIRS in dementia and prodromal stages, 88 studies were evaluated which employed a range of tasks testing memory (29), word retrieval (24), motor (8) and visuo-spatial function (4), and which explored the resting state (32). Across these domains, dementia exhibited blunted haemodynamic responses, often localised to frontal regions of interest, and a lack of task-appropriate frontal lateralisation. Prodromal stages, such as mild cognitive impairment, revealed mixed results. Reduced cognitive performance accompanied by either diminished functional responses or hyperactivity was identified, the latter suggesting a compensatory response not present at the dementia stage. Despite clear evidence of alterations in brain oxygenation in dementia and prodromal stages, a consensus as to the nature of these changes is difficult to reach. This is likely partially due to the lack of standardisation in optical techniques and processing methods for the application of NIRS to dementia. Further studies are required exploring more naturalistic settings and a wider range of dementia subtypes.