Seeing right through you: Applications of optical imaging to the study of the human brain

Gabriele Gratton, Monica Fabiani, Thomas Elbert, Brigitte Rockstroh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A new set of techniques allows for the study of brain function by near-infrared light, exploiting two optical phenomena: Changes in light absorption are determined by changes in the concentration of substances like oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin, and changes in light scattering occur as a consequence of variations of properties of membranes and corpuscles in the neural tissue. Methods based on light absorption can be used to study hemodynamic changes in the brain, whereas those based on light scattering can be used to study neuronal activity and to provide anatomical information at a cellular and subcellular level. Three optical imaging approaches can be used to study living tissue: reflection, optical coherence tomography (OCT), and photon migration. These three approaches vary in their penetration (from less than a millimeter for reflection to up to 3-5 cm for photon migration) and spatial resolution (from a micron level for reflection and OCT to a millimeter and centimeter level for photon migration). This issue includes a collection of articles reviewing applications of these technologies to the study of brain and other bodily functions in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-491
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Brain imaging
  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Optical imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Seeing right through you: Applications of optical imaging to the study of the human brain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this