Neurovascular coupling: In vivo optical techniques for functional brain imaging

Lun De Liao*, Vassiliy Tsytsarev, Ignacio Delgado-Martínez, Meng Lin Li, Reha Erzurumlu, Ashwati Vipin, Josue Orellana, Yan Ren Lin, Hsin Yi Lai, You Yin Chen, Nitish V. Thakor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Optical imaging techniques reflect different biochemical processes in the brain, which is closely related with neural activity. Scientists and clinicians employ a variety of optical imaging technologies to visualize and study the relationship between neurons, glial cells and blood vessels. In this paper, we present an overview of the current optical approaches used for the in vivo imaging of neurovascular coupling events in small animal models. These techniques include 2-photon microscopy, laser speckle contrast imaging (LSCI), voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDi), functional photoacoustic microscopy (fPAM), functional near-infrared spectroscopy imaging (fNIRS) and multimodal imaging techniques. The basic principles of each technique are described in detail, followed by examples of current applications from cutting-edge studies of cerebral neurovascular coupling functions and metabolic. Moreover, we provide a glimpse of the possible ways in which these techniques might be translated to human studies for clinical investigations of pathophysiology and disease. In vivo optical imaging techniques continue to expand and evolve, allowing us to discover fundamental basis of neurovascular coupling roles in cerebral physiology and pathophysiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
JournalBioMedical Engineering Online
Issue number1
StatePublished - 30 Apr 2013


  • 2-photon microscopy
  • Cerebral neuroimaging
  • Functional near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Functional photoacoustic microscopy
  • Laser speckle contrast imaging
  • Neurovascular coupling
  • Voltage sensitive dye imaging


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