Brain complexity analysis using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) has attracted attention as a biomarker for evaluating brain development and degeneration processes. However, most methods have focused on the temporal scale without capturing the spatial complexity. In this study, we propose a spatial time-delay entropy (STDE) method as the spatial complexity measure based on the time-delay measure between two oxy-hemoglobin (∆[HbO]) or two deoxy-hemoglobin (∆[Hb]) oscillations within the 0.01-0.1 Hz frequency band. To do this, we analyze fNIRS signals recorded from infants in their sleeping state, children, adults, and healthy seniors in their resting states. We also evaluate the effects of various noise to STDE calculations and STDE’s performance in distinguishing various developmental age groups. Lastly, we compare the results with the normalized global spatial complexity (NGSC) and sample entropy (SampEn) measures. Among these measures, STDEHbO (STDE based on ∆[HbO] oscillations) performs best. The STDE value increases with age throughout childhood (p < 0.001), and then decreases in adults and healthy seniors in the 0.01-0.1 Hz frequency band. This trajectory correlates with cerebrovascular development and degeneration. These findings demonstrate that STDE can be used as a new tool for tracking cerebrovascular development and degeneration across a lifespan based on the fNIRS resting-state measurements.
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