Massively parallel functional photoacoustic computed tomography of the human brain

Nat Biomed Eng. 2022 May;6(5):584-592. doi: 10.1038/s41551-021-00735-8. Epub 2021 May 31.


Blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging of the human brain requires bulky equipment for the generation of magnetic fields. Photoacoustic computed tomography obviates the need for magnetic fields by using light and sound to measure deoxyhaemoglobin and oxyhaemoglobin concentrations to then quantify oxygen saturation and blood volumes. Yet, the available imaging speeds, fields of view (FOV), sensitivities and penetration depths have been insufficient for functional imaging of the human brain. Here, we show that massively parallel ultrasonic transducers arranged hemispherically around the human head can produce tomographic images of the brain with a 10-cm-diameter FOV and spatial and temporal resolutions of 350 µm and 2 s, respectively. In patients who had a hemicraniectomy, a comparison of functional photoacoustic computed tomography and 7 T BOLD functional magnetic resonance imaging showed a strong spatial correspondence in the same FOV and a high temporal correlation between BOLD signals and photoacoustic signals, with the latter enabling faster detection of functional activation. Our findings establish the use of photoacoustic computed tomography for human brain imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Tomography
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / methods
  • Transducers*

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.sxksn0310