Medical imaging refers to a number of techniques that can be used as non-invasive methods of looking inside the body. It can be used to assist diagnosis or treatment of various medical conditions.

NIRS stands for near infrared spectroscopy. Infrared light (between 700-1000nm) is used to determine the colour of the blood, from which the amount of oxygen in the blood can be determined.

NIRS is a type of optical imaging and has several applications including:
• Observing the brain function in premature babies to see if they can feel pain
• Compare the brain development of babies who may have suffered brain damage with those of normal babies to detect abnormalities
• Observing how the brains of young infants process visual information
• Looking at oxygen levels and blood flow in muscles during exercise to monitor efficiency of training in elite athletes and in people with disorders such as cystic fibrosis.

MONSTIR is an imaging instrument that generates 3D images of biological tissues.

Curriculum links

All sciences 3. Specification content
3.6 The skills, knowledge and understanding of How science works must include the requirements set out below, and must be integrated into the mandatory content indicated in the relevant appendix and any content added by the awarding body.
• Consider applications and implications of science and appreciate their associated benefits and risks.
Biology 1.5 Cells
c) In complex multicellular organisms cells are organised into tissues, tissues into organs and organs into systems.
1.6 Biological molecules
b) In living organisms nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, inorganic ions and water all have important roles and functions related to their properties.
Chemistry 2.11 Modern analytical techniques
a) The use of mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and chromatography in analysis, including techniques for the elucidation of structure.

Scottish Curriculum

Human Biology Higher
Potentially relevant to modules: Physiology and Health (reproduction and the cardiovascular system. post-natal screening, relevant tissues and circulation and the pathology of cardiovascular disease)

Shedding light on the human body

Start by watching this short film as an introduction to the topic.


Use this factsheet and website to find out what NIRS stands for and then complete the quiz: