Communicating through Emotions: Using Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to Identify Emotional Responses in Children

A Novel Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Brain-Computer Interface


We are currently recruiting typically developing children for a research study on brain-computer interfaces. This study will use near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), a measurement method that uses infrared light to detect changes in brain activity. We want to use NIRS to see if we can identify changes in emotional state from brain activity alone. In the future, we hope that such a device could be used as a way for children with severe motor impairments to communicate.  


Tom Chau, PhD, PEng,Erica Floreani, MASc Candidate

Participate in this study

Do you want to participate in a study that may help develop a communication device for children with severe motor impairments? Consider participating in our study. 

Who can participate

Participants must be between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, be able to read and understand English, and have normal or corrected-to-normal vision and hearing.  Additionally, participants must have no known history of neurological, psychological, cardiopulmonary, respiratory or drug or alcohol related conditions, as well as no known history of traumatic brain injury or concussion. Because this study involves evoking emotional responses, participants must not have a history of significant emotional trauma.  

What's Involved

Participants will be asked to attend four sessions at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (sessions can be scheduled weekdays, evenings and weekends). Each session will be approximately one hour long. During each session, participants will look at sets of pictures while listening to music.  The pictures and music were chosen so that they evoke emotional responses such as happiness or sadness.  The participants will wear a head cap with sensors that use light (near infrared spectroscopy) to measure their brain activity while they experience these emotions.  Participants will be given breaks approximately every ten minutes, or as needed. Participants will receive a small token of appreciation for each session to thank them for their time.   


Recruiting until April 2019, or until 17 participants have been recruited. 

Interested in participating

If you are interested in participating in this study, or have additional questions, contact Erica Floreani at or at 416-425-6200ext. 3270. Contacting us does not obligate you and your child to participate in the study.  

Funding Agency

The Kimel Family Foundation and the PRISM Lab, Bloorview Research Institute 

Learn more about this study