Understanding the neurovascular unit at multiple scales: Advantages and limitations of multi-photon and functional ultrasound imaging

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2017 Sep 15;119:73-100. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2017.07.018. Epub 2017 Aug 2.


Developing efficient brain imaging technologies by combining a high spatiotemporal resolution and a large penetration depth is a key step for better understanding the neurovascular interface that emerges as a main pathway to neurodegeneration in many pathologies such as dementia. This review focuses on the advances in two complementary techniques: multi-photon laser scanning microscopy (MPLSM) and functional ultrasound imaging (fUSi). MPLSM has become the gold standard for in vivo imaging of cellular dynamics and morphology, together with cerebral blood flow. fUSi is an innovative imaging modality based on Doppler ultrasound, capable of recording vascular brain activity over large scales (i.e., tens of cubic millimeters) at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution for such volumes (up to 10μm pixel size at 10kHz). By merging these two technologies, researchers may have access to a more detailed view of the various processes taking place at the neurovascular interface. MPLSM and fUSi are also good candidates for addressing the major challenge of real-time delivery, monitoring, and in vivo evaluation of drugs in neuronal tissue.

Keywords: Brain vasculature; Calcium imaging; Cerebral blood volume; Doppler; Functional brain imaging; Functional ultrasound imaging; Multi- and two-photon imaging; Neurovascular coupling.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography / methods