Label-free photoacoustic tomography of whole mouse brain structures ex vivo

Lei Li, Jun Xia, Guo Li, Alejandro Garcia-Uribe, Qiwei Sheng, Mark A. Anastasio, Lihong V. Wanga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Capitalizing on endogenous hemoglobin contrast, photoacoustic-computed tomography (PACT), a deep-tissue high-resolution imaging modality, has drawn increasing interest in neuroimaging. However, most existing studies are limited to functional imaging on the cortical surface and the deep brain structural imaging capability of PACT has never been demonstrated. Here, we explicitly studied the limiting factors of deep brain PACT imaging. We found that the skull distorted the acoustic signal and blood suppressed the structural contrast from other chromophores. When the two effects are mitigated, PACT can potentially provide high-resolution label-free imaging of structures in the entire mouse brain. With 100-ìm in-plane resolution, we can clearly identify major structures of the brain, which complements magnetic resonance microscopy for imaging small-animal brain structures. Spectral PACT studies indicate that structural contrasts mainly originate from cytochrome distribution and that the presence of lipid sharpens the image contrast; brain histology results provide further validation. The feasibility of imaging the structure of the brain in vivo is also discussed. Our results demonstrate that PACT is a promising modality for both structural and functional brain imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035001
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • brain structural imaging
  • deep brain imaging
  • label free
  • photoacoustic-computed tomography
  • spectral imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Label-free photoacoustic tomography of whole mouse brain structures ex vivo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this