Optics and the Brain

20 April 2020 – 23 April 2020 OSA Virtual Event - Eastern Time (US & Canada) (UTC - 05:00)

The USA BRAIN Initiative and the European Human Brain Project have identified the urgent need for new technologies that can probe the working brain across all levels from single neurons to entire behaving organisms. Optics offers a unique toolkit for multiscale imaging the living and intact brain, while new genetic labeling strategies provide optical contrast to neural function and optogenetics permits the control of cellular function with light.

By bringing together an international group of leading engineers, optical and medical scientists, biologists, chemists and physicians, the meeting reflects this topic’s highly interdisciplinary area of research. The BRAIN meeting will bring together researchers working in all aspects of optics in the brain and will serve as a forum for discussion of existing and emerging techniques as well as future directions capable of shedding new light on the healthy and diseased brain.


  1. Optics in the Human Brain
    • Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and diffuse optical tomography (DOT)
    • Wearable systems
    • Brain computer interfaces
    • Intrasurgical brain optical imaging
    • Fiber-optic probes, spectroscopy and endoscopic imaging
    • Optical modulation of the human central nervous system
    • Retinal neuroscience
    • Diffuse Correlation Spectroscopy.
    • Speckle contrast.
    • Quantifying blood flow.
    • Vascular and Metabolic modelling.
    • Functional activations.
    • Clinical applications.
    • Translational optical agents (optogenetics, calcium indicators, molecular probes)
  2. Rethinking Scan Patterns and Shaping Light
    • Light sheet microscopy
    • Wavefront engineering
    • Adaptive optics
    • Structured illumination
    • Temporal focusing
    • Non-gaussian beam shaping (Bessel, Doughnut, Airy, etc...)
  3. Structural and super-resolution techniques
    • Resolution improvement techniques
    • Fluorophores design and optimization
    • Use of super-resolution
    • Particle tracking
    • Molecular and biophysical processes
  4. Analyzing Circuitry, Network Function and Information Processing
    • Model systems for network studies
    • Hybrid theoretical-experimental approaches to network analysis
    • Models of network inference
    • Imaging strategies optimized for network analysis
    • Decyphering functions from activity data
    • Multiscale imaging of brain activity
    • Functional Microscopy
    • Wearable microscopes
    • Hybrid electrical/optical microscopy.
  5. Optogenetics, Genetic Encoding, and novel probes
    • Optrode and electrode hardware for excitation and / or recording
    • Use of miniature microscopes with optogenetics
    • Genetically encoded calcium and voltage indicators
    • Novel forms of functional contrast
    • New genetic strategies for optogenetics
    • Modeling and overcoming scatter in optogenetics
    • Challenges of scaling up optogenetics to non-human primates
  6. Scattering, clearing, and wavefront engineering
    • Advances in Light sheet microscopy
    • Novel techniques for in-vivo and in-vitro whole-brain imaging and actuation
    • Zebrafish, Drosophila and similar small organisms
    • Clearing techniques and structural imaging, animal to human
    • Optical data management and analysis strategies
    • Multiphoton strategies for deeper imaging
    • Adaptive optics strategies
  7. Physiology and Brain Disease
    • Application of optical imaging strategies to Alzheimer’s, stroke, epilepsy etc.
    • Models of brain disease and optical tools
    • Photothrombosis
    • Optical therapeutics
    • Photodynamic therapy
  8. Big Data Tools (Collection, Management, Reduction, Analysis)
    • Rapid imaging strategies
    • Serial slices imaging
    • Large field-of-view and space-bandwidth microscopes
    • Compression strategies
    • Data management tools
    • Machine learning
    • Software tools and data formats
  9. Optical hybrids
    • Photoacoustics / optoacoustics
    • Acousto-optic approaches
    • Acoustic modulation of neural activity
    • Combined optical / PET / CT / MRI
    • Combined electrical/optical



  • Wesley Baker, Children's Hospital of PhiladelphiaUnited States
    Diffuse Optical Biomarkers for Iischemia and Elevated Intracranial Pressure in Hydrocephalus
  • Stefan Carp, Massachusetts General HospitalUnited States
    Novel Approaches for Increased Sensitivity to Cerebral Blood Flow Using Diffuse Correlation Spectroscopy
  • Robert Cooper, University College LondonUnited Kingdom
    Wearable High-density Diffuse Optical Tomography for Unrestricted Human Functional Neuroimaging
  • Meng Cui, Purdue UniversityUnited States
    Clear Optically Matched Panoramic Access Channel Technique (COMPACT) for Large Volume Deep Brain Neurophotonic Interface
  • Tommaso Fellin, Istituto Italiano di TecnologiaItaly
    Extended Field-of-view Deep Brain Imaging Using Aberration Correction in GRIN Microendoscopes through 3D Printed Polymer Microlenses
  • Amanda Foust, Yale UniversityUnited States
    Light Field Cellular Resolution Mammalian Neurophysiology
  • Ariel Gilad, Hebrew University of JerusalemIsrael
    Wide-field Imaging of Cortical Dynamics during Learning and Short-term Memory
  • Peyman Golshani, University of California, Los Angeles
    New Tools for Imaging Neuronal Population Dynamics in Freely Behaving Animals
  • Joy Hirsch, Yale UniversityUnited States
    An fNIRS Approach to Two-person Neuroscience
  • Roarke Horstmeyer, Duke UniversityUnited States
    Architectures for Gigapixel-scale High-speed Imaging of Freely Moving Organisms
  • Dorian McGavern, Nat Inst of Neuro Disorders and StrokeUnited States
    Title to be announced.
  • Jerome Mertz, Boston UniversityUnited States
    Fast, Multiplane Imaging with Reverberation Multiphoton Microscopy
  • Yasuyo Minagawa, Keio UniversityJapan
    fNIRS Applications: Shedding Light on Brain-to-brain Synchrony Underlying Human Social Interaction
  • Ferruccio Pisanello, Laboratoire Kastler BrosselItaly
    Tapered Fibers Technology for Multi-functional Neural Interfaces
  • Kaspar Podgorski, Janelia Research Campus
    Computational Microscopy for Recording Brain Activity
  • Ilias Tachtsidis, University College LondonUnited Kingdom
    Early Bedside Broadband Near-infrared Spectroscopy Markers of Neonatal Brain Injury: Quantifying In-vivo Mitochondrial Function
  • Alexander Von Lühmann, Boston UniversityUnited States
    Towards Neuroimaging Everywhere: Progress in Wearable fNIRS Instrumentation and Applications
  • Brian White, Children's Hospital of PhiladelphiaUnited States
    Sampling Rate Effects on the Measurement of Resting-state Hemodynamics with Optical Intrinsic Signal Imaging



  • Maria Angela Franceschini, Massachusetts General Hospital, United StatesChair
  • Spencer Smith, University of California Santa Barbara, United StatesChair
  • Anna Devor, University of California San Diego, United StatesProgram Chair
  • Darcy Peterka, Columbia University, United StatesProgram Chair
  • Gemma Bale, University College London, United Kingdom
  • Erin Buckley, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • David Busch, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, United States
  • Patrick Drew, Pennsylvania State University, United States
  • Valentina Emiliani, CNRS and UPMC, France
  • Sinem Erdogan, Acibadem University
  • Qianqian Fang, Northeastern University, United States
  • Emily Gibson, University of Colorado Denver, United States
  • Ute Hochgeschwender, Central Michigan University, United States
  • Luca Pollonini, University of Houston, United States
  • Balazs Rozsa, Inst Exp Medicine, Hungarian Acad Sci, Hungary
  • Sava Sakadzic, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Lin Tian, University of California Davis, United States
  • Hana Uhlirova, Institute of Scientific Instruments, Czech Republic


Plenary Session

Steven LeBoeuf

Valencell, Inc, USA

Cuff-like Accuracy in Blood Pressure Monitoring via Wearable Photoplethysmography and Machine Learning

In this study, a machine learning model was developed to predict blood pressure(BP) based on optical and inertial sensor data collected from a commercially available photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor module embedded within a wearable device.

About the Speaker

Inventor of more than 80 granted patents and more than 100 patents pending in the field of wearable biomedical sensing, Steven LeBoeuf is one of the foundational innovators in wearable PPG sensors that are now embedded in millions of wearables on the market today. Before founding Valencell in 2006, Dr. LeBoeuf pioneered innovations in solid state materials, multiwavelength optoelectronic devices, high-power electronics, nanostructured materials and devices, and biochemical sensor systems while serving as a Senior Scientist and Biosensor Project Lead for General Electric. LeBoeuf has developed dozens of strategic partnerships with industry leading consumer technology brands, medical professionals, research institutions, medical device manufacturers, health and fitness companies, and start-ups. One of the most broadly quoted scientists and entrepreneurs in the field of wearable PPG sensing, LeBoeuf has served as a speaker in 50+ events around the world and is routinely interviewed by journalists, industry analysts, venture capitalists, and academic researchers. As a founding pioneer in modern wearables, LeBoeuf has managed Valencell’s foundational patent portfolio, which has been licensed to dozens of companies around the world and implemented in 40+ wearable devices, ranging from earbuds, hearing aids, wristbands, legbands, smartwatches, virtual reality systems, headbands and more. LeBoeuf holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University and BS degree in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics at Louisiana Tech University.

Catharine Young

SHEPHERD Foundation, USA

The Optics of a Changing Scientific Landscape

Based on the current pandemic, society will be forced to rethink how we operate on many levels and academia is no different. From graduate education, to policy reform to mentoring we now face an inflection point.

About the Speaker

Originally from South Africa, Dr. Catharine Young holds a doctorate degree in Biomedical Sciences and previously served as the Senior Director of Science Policy for the Biden Cancer Initiative. Here she fostered discussion and collaboration within the biotech, technology, science, and academic fields to drive innovation solutions and breakthroughs against cancer. Prior to this position, Catharine served as the Senior Science and Innovation Policy Advisor and Head of the DC team for the Foreign Ministry of the UK. Based at the British Embassy, Catharine influenced science and innovation policies of both the UK and US governments, industry, and academia. Following her Postdoctoral training at Cornell University in Biomedical Engineering, Catharine was selected as a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs. Here she led international engagements on eliminating biological weapons, improving biosafety and biosecurity, and assisting in the DoD's response to the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. Catharine also co-founded Blueprint International, a non-profit dedicated to providing novel technological solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social issues. Catharine is the Executive Director of the SHEPHERD Foundation. Recent awards include being selected as a TED Fellow, Alexandria 40 Under 40 and Social Enablers top 100 most inspiring social entrepreneurs. Catharine is an advocate for women in STEM and has been a contributor to major social and media networks including TED-Ed, the Guardian and the UK Science and Innovation Network.