Diffuse optical imaging can measure brain activity noninvasively in humans through the scalp and skull by measuring the light intensity modulation arising from localized-activity-induced absorption changes within the cortex. Spatial resolution and localization accuracy are currently limited by measurement geometry to approximately 3 cm in the plane parallel to the scalp. Depth resolution is a more significant challenge owing to the limited angle tomography permitted by reflectance-only measurements. We combine previously established concepts for improving image quality and demonstrate, through simulation studies, their application for improving the image quality of adult human brain function. We show in a three-dimensional human head model that localization accuracy is significantly improved by the addition of measurements that provide overlapping samples of brain tissue. However, the reconstructed absorption contrast is significantly underestimated because its depth is underestimated. We show that the absorption contrast amplitude accuracy can be significantly improved by providing a cortical spatial constraint in the image reconstruction to obtain a better depth localization. The cortical constraint makes physiological sense since the brain-activity-induced absorption changes are occurring in the cortex and not in the scalp, skull, and cerebral spinal fluid. This spatial constraint is provided by segmentation of coregistered structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, the absorption contrast deep within the cortex is reconstructed superficially, resulting in an underestimation of the absorption contrast. The synthesis of techniques described here indicates that multimodality imaging of brain function with diffuse optical imaging and MRI has the potential to provide more quantitative estimates of the total and deoxyhemoglobin response to brain activation, which is currently not provided by either method independently. However, issues of depth resolution within the cortex remain to be resolved.
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