Over the past 20 years, the field of cognitive neuroscience has relied heavily on hemodynamic measures of blood oxygenation in local regions of the brain to make inferences about underlying cognitive processes. These same functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) techniques have recently been adapted for use with human infants. We review the advantages and disadvantages of these two neuroimaging methods for studies of infant cognition, with a particular emphasis on their technical limitations and the linking hypotheses that are used to draw conclusions from correlational data. In addition to summarizing key findings in several domains of infant cognition, we highlight the prospects of improving the quality of fNIRS data from infants to address in a more sophisticated way how cognitive development is mediated by changes in underlying neural mechanisms.


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