Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 140–153 | Cite as

Exploring frontal asymmetry using functional near-infrared spectroscopy: a preliminary study of the effects of social anxiety during interaction and performance tasks

  • Lori-Ann Tuscan
  • James D. Herbert
  • Evan M. Forman
  • Adrienne S. Juarascio
  • Meltem Izzetoglu
  • Maria Schultheis
Original Research


Preliminary studies examining brain function associated with social anxiety suggest the possibility of right-sided prefrontal activation associated with phobic stimulation. Although most existing neuroimaging techniques preclude participants from engaging in ecologically valid social tasks during assessment, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a promising new technique that permits such assessment. The present study investigated the utility of the fNIRS procedure and explored frontal asymmetry during in vivo social challenge tasks among female undergraduate students who scored in top and bottom percentiles on a social anxiety screening measure. Results revealed that participants in both groups experienced a significant increase in concentration of blood volume and oxygenated hemoglobin in the right hemisphere compared to the left hemisphere while giving a speech. Non-hemispheric effects were also observed. In addition, the high anxiety group showed a non-significant trend toward greater right frontal activity than the low anxiety group. This study highlights the utility of the fNIRS device in successfully assessing real-time changes in cerebrovascular response as a function of naturalistic social behavior, and supports the potential utility of this technology in the study of the neurophysiology of social anxiety.


fNIRS Social Anxiety Prefrontal Cortex 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lori-Ann Tuscan
    • 1
  • James D. Herbert
    • 1
  • Evan M. Forman
    • 1
  • Adrienne S. Juarascio
    • 1
  • Meltem Izzetoglu
    • 1
  • Maria Schultheis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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