Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Ramin Pashaie

Committee Members

Edgar DeYoe, Chiu Tai Law


Functional Imaging, Hemodynamics, Neural Vasculature Coupling, Optical Coherence Tomography, Optogenetics


The brain is composed of billions of neurons, all of which connected through a vast network. After years of study and applications of different technologies and techniques, there are still more questions than answers when it comes to the fundamental functions of the brain. This project aims to provide a new tool which can be used to gain a better understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that govern neurological processes inside the brain. In order for neural networks to operate, blood has to be supplied through neighboring blood vessels. As such, the increase or decrease in the blood supply has been used as an indicator of neural activity. The neural activity and blood supply relationship is known as neural vasculature coupling. Monitoring the hemodynamics is used as an indicator of neurological activity, but the causal relationship is an area of current research.

Gaining a better understanding of the coupling of neural activity and the surrounding vasculature provides a more accurate methodology to evaluate regional neural activity. The new optical technology applied in this project provides a set of tools to both stimulate and monitor this coupling relationship. Optogenetics provides the capability of stimulating neural activity using specific wavelengths of light. Essentially this tool allows for the direct stimulation of networks of neurons by simply shining one color of light onto the brain. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), another new optical technology applied in this project, can record volumetric images of blood vessels and flow using only infrared light. The combination of the two optical technologies is then capable of stimulating neural activity and monitoring the hemodynamic response inside the brain using only light.

As a result of this project we have successfully demonstrated the capability of both stimulating and imaging the brain using new optical technologies. The optical stimulation of neural activity has evoked a direct hemodynamic effect as anticipated through neural-vasculature coupling. Changes in blood velocity, flow and dilatation were all recorded using the high resolution and high speed capabilities of the OCT system.