We have applied functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to the human forehead to distinguish different levels of mental workload on the basis of hemodynamic changes occurring in the prefrontal cortex. We report data on 3 subjects from a protocol involving 3 mental workload levels based on to working memory tasks. To quantify the potential of fNIRS for mental workload discrimination, we have applied a 3-nearest neighbor classification algorithm based on the amplitude of oxyhemoglobin (HbO2) and deoxyhemoglobin (HbR) concentration changes associated with the working memory tasks. We have found classification success rates in the range of 4472%, which are significantly higher than the corresponding chance level (for random data) of 19.1%. This work shows the potential of fNIRS for mental workload classification, especially when more parameters (rather than just the amplitude of concentration changes used here) and more sophisticated classification algorithms (rather than the simple 3-nearest neighbor algorithm used here) are considered and optimized for this application.

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Keywords Diffuse optical imaging, functional brain imaging, mental workload, near-infrared spectroscopy, working memory
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1142/S1793545808000224
Journal Journal of Innovative Optical Health Sciences
Sassaroli, A. (Angelo), Zheng, F. (Feng), Hirshfield, L.M. (Leanne M.), Girouard, A, Solovey, E.T. (Erin Treacy), Jacob, R.J.K. (Robert J. K.), & Fantini, S. (Sergio). (2008). Discrimination of mental workload levels in human subjects with functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Journal of Innovative Optical Health Sciences, 1(2), 227–237. doi:10.1142/S1793545808000224