Brain Function – New Insights With Photoacoustic Imaging

Scientists have created an ultrafast photoacoustic imaging system that detects molecular changes in major brain function disorders. While positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) produce adequate images, they suffer from low spatial resolution, which makes distinguishing between adjacent bodily structures difficult, and low temporal resolution, which is the time it takes to yield measurements and construct an image.

Photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) is an alternative imaging technique for understanding brain function that employs laser light pulses fired into an organ. The pulses generate an ultrasound wave, which is captured and used to create an image. The disadvantage of PAM is that it scans slowly. However, researchers have solved this problem by developing ultrafast functional photoacoustic microscopy (UFF-PAM), two times faster than existing PAM systems.

UFF-PAM enables brain function and microvasculature imaging with a wide field of vision and high spatial resolution, which other imaging techniques do not provide.

In a proof-of-concept experiment to map brain function, researchers used UFF-PAM to successfully capture hemodynamic responses to induced hypoxia, sodium nitroprusside-induced hypotension, and stroke in mouse brains. UFF-PAM recorded rapid, whole-brain changes in real-time.

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