Near-infrared (NIR) topography can obtain a topographical distribution of the activated region in the brain cortex. Near-infrared light is strongly scattered in the head, and the volume of tissue sampled by a source-detector pair on the head surface is broadly distributed in the brain. This scattering effect results in poor resolution and contrast in the topographic image of the brain activity. In this study, a one-dimensional distribution of absorption change in a head model is calculated by mapping and reconstruction methods to evaluate the effect of the image reconstruction algorithm and the interval of measurement points for topographic imaging on the accuracy of the topographic image. The light propagation in the head model is predicted by Monte Carlo simulation to obtain the spatial sensitivity profile for a source-detector pair. The measurement points are one-dimensionally arranged on the surface of the model, and the distance between adjacent measurement points is varied from 4 mm to 28 mm. Small intervals of the measurement points improve the topographic image calculated by both the mapping and reconstruction methods. In the conventional mapping method, the limit of the spatial resolution depends upon the interval of the measurement points and spatial sensitivity profile for source-detector pairs. The reconstruction method has advantages over the mapping method which improve the results of one-dimensional analysis when the interval of measurement points is less than 12 mm. The effect of overlapping of spatial sensitivity profiles indicates that the reconstruction method may be effective to improve the spatial resolution of a two-dimensional reconstruction of topographic image obtained with larger interval of measurement points. Near-infrared topography with the reconstruction method potentially obtains an accurate distribution of absorption change in the brain even if the size of absorption change is less than 10 mm.
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