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Neuroimage. 2004 Jan;21(1):372-86.

Noninvasive measurement of neuronal activity with near-infrared optical imaging.

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  • 1Anthinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Diffuse optical imaging (DOI) alone offers the possibility of simultaneously and noninvasively measuring neuronal and vascular signals in the brain with temporal resolution of up to 1 ms. However, while optical measurement of hemodynamic signals is well established, optical measurement of neuronal activation (the so-called fast signal) is just emerging and requires further optimization and validation. In this work, we present preliminary studies in which we measured the fast signal in 10 healthy volunteers during finger-tapping, tactile stimulation, and electrical median nerve stimulation. We used an instrument (CW4) with 8 source (690 and 830 nm) and 16 detector positions-more optodes than the instruments in previously reported studies. This allowed us to record the ipsilateral and contralateral sensorimotor cortex simultaneously, while at the same time measuring the evoked hemodynamic response. We used an acquisition time of 25 ms per image; after averaging approximately 1000 events, the signal-to-noise ratio was approximately 10(4). Since the expected relative intensity changes due to the fast signal (approximately 10(-3)) are smaller than the relative intensity changes due to physiological effects (approximately 10(-1)), we enhanced the suppression of competing signals such as the heartbeat-associated intensity changes, and established five criteria with which to assess the robustness of the fast signal. We detected the fast signal in 43% of the measurements during finger-tapping, 60% of those during tactile stimulation, and 23% of those during electrical median nerve stimulation. The relative changes in intensity associated with the fast signal were approximately 0.07% and the latency of the signal was approximately 100 ms.

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