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Neurosurgery. 1997 Nov;41(5):1137-44; discussion 1144-5.

Identification of functioning cortex using cortical optical imaging.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Health Science Center at Syracuse, New York, USA.



The purpose of this study was to evaluate the technique of cortical optical imaging (COI) of intrinsic cortical optical signals related to neuronal activation. The specific goals of the study were to evaluate some of the technical aspects of COI and thus maximize the intensity of the image of this intrinsic signaling process and to determine the physiological reliability of COI in a well-defined animal system.


The intrinsic optical signal of activated whisker barrel cortex of rat was imaged using a computer-based technique for rapid acquisition of enhanced images. Single-unit microelectrode recordings of cortical neuronal responses to whisker movement were used to confirm the locations of the whisker barrels.


Narrow band incident light at 600- to 610-nm wavelength was most effective for producing optical images. Images could be obtained during activation by a single long (40 s) stimulus or by averaging the signal generated by repeated shorter (1-8 s) stimuli. Focusing slightly below the cortical surface, minimizing movement, and abolishing extraneous light were all important in increasing the signal-to-noise ratio. The locations of whisker movement-evoked cortical activity determined using COI are consistent with the known functional anatomy of rat whisker barrel cortex. The images obtained with this experimental arrangement are shown to be accurate predictors of the location of neuronal activity determined by comparing the locations of active sites identified with COI with locations of areas of neuronal activity determined using single-cell recording techniques.


COI is able to rapidly identify areas of cortex containing elicited neuronal activity. The technique allows cortical activation maps to be made rapidly with a very high degree of spatial resolution. COI is reliable and consistent over time. COI, if used carefully, holds promise as an intraoperative technique to study both human and experimental animal cortical function.

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