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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2000 Mar;20(3):469-77.

Noninvasive functional imaging of human brain using light.

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  • 1Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California 94304, USA.


Analysis of photon transit time for low-power light passing into the head, and through both skull and brain, of human subjects allowed for tomographic imaging of cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation based on photon diffusion theory. In healthy adults, imaging of changes in hemoglobin saturation during hand movement revealed focal, contralateral increases in motor cortex oxygenation with spatial agreement to activation maps determined by functional magnetic resonance imaging; in ill neonates, imaging of hemoglobin saturation revealed focal regions of low oxygenation after acute stroke, with spatial overlap to injury location determined by computed tomography scan. Because such slow optical changes occur over seconds and co-localize with magnetic resonance imaging vascular signals whereas fast activation-related optical changes occur over milliseconds and co-localize with EEG electrical signals, optical methods offer a single modality for exploring the spatio-temporal relationship between electrical and vascular responses in the brain in vivo, as well as for mapping cortical activation and oxygenation at the bedside in real-time for clinical monitoring.

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