Modulational instability (MI) in optical fibers, that is break-up of continuous-wave light into a train of optical solitons, is a well-known phenomenon that usually requires anomalous group velocity dispersion [1]. In the normal dispersion regime, MI may appear under certain conditions, for instance when two or more optical fields or polarization modes copropagate in the fiber [2,3] or in presence of a periodic modulation of dispersion and/or gain [4]. In all these cases, MI is a typical temporal phenomenon and it is unrelated to spatial effects since the fiber is assumed to be single-mode or weakly multimode. In highly multimode fibers, such as in graded-index fibers, a simple analysis that separates spatial and temporal degrees of freedom is inadequate and strong space-time coupling effects may be expected. Spatial self-focusing and self-phase modulation effects in multimode parabolic-index fibers have been studied in a series of papers [5-7], however the complex space-time dynamics and the onset of MI have been not yet investigated in such highly multimode fibers.

© 2004 Optical Society of America

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