Imaging of scattered and reflected light from the surface of neural structures can reveal the functional architecture within large populations of neurons. These techniques exploit, as one of the principal signal sources, reflectance changes produced by local variation in blood volume and oxygen saturation related to neural activity. We found that a major source of variability in the captured light signal is a pervasive low-frequency (0.1-Hz) oscillation which apparently results from regional cerebral blood flow. This signal is present in brain parenchyma as well as the microvasculature and exhibits many characteristics of the low-frequency "vasomotion" signals observed in peripheral microcirculation. Concurrent measurements in brain with a laser Doppler flow meter contained an almost identical low-frequency signal. The presence of the 0.1-Hz oscillation in the cerebral microcirculation could underlie a portion of the previously described characteristics reported in reflected-light imaging studies. The prevalence of the oscillatory phenomena in the brain raises substantial temporal sampling issues for optical imaging and for other visualization techniques which depend on changes in regional cerebral blood dynamics, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging.