Skip To Content

Optics and the Brain

03 April 2018 – 06 April 2018 The Diplomat Beach Resort, Hollywood, Florida United States

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.
This conference 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



  • Erin Buckley, Emory UniversityUnited States 
    Diffuse Correlation Spectroscopy to Elucidate Mechanisms of Brain Injury
  • Patrick Desrosiers, Universite LavalCanada 
    Network Analysis of Optical Imaging Data
  • Stephane Dieudonne, IBENS-Ecole Normale Supérieure-S4.9France 
    Multiphoton Ultrafast LOcal Volume Excitation (ULOVE) Through Acousto-optic Wavefront Shaping to Record and Control Neuronal Activity
  • Mamadou Diop, Lawson Health Research InstituteCanada 
    Quantitative tissue spectroscopy techniques for measuring cerebral perfusion and metabolism
  • Turgut Durduran, ICFO -Institut de Ciencies FotoniquesSpain 
    Latest on Our Gizmos & Gadgets Based on Speckle Statistics to Measure the Cerebral Blood Flow of the Human Brain
  • Sergio Fantini, Tufts UniversityUnited States 
    Coherent Hemodynamics Spectroscopy (CHS): A New Way to Look at Cerebral Hemodynamic Oscillations
  • Maria Angela Franceschini, Massachusetts General Hospital 
    Time-Domain Diffuse Correlation Spectroscopy: From Theory to Human Subject Studies
  • Elizabeth Hillman, Columbia UniversityUnited States 
    SCAPE microscopy for multi-scale, high speed volumetric imaging in neuroscience
  • Jan Huisken, Max-Planck-GesellschaftUnited States 
    Portable and Modular Light Sheet Microscopy Platform
  • Hanli Liu, University of Texas at ArlingtonUnited States
  • Francesco Pavone, European Lab for Non-Linear SpectroscopyItaly 
  • Jian Ren, Massachusetts General HospitalUnited States 
    High-throughput 3D Histology on Intact Tissues Based on Optical Elastic Scattering
  • Haowen Ruan, California Institute of TechnologyUnited States 
    Deep Tissue Optical Focusing and Optogenetic Modulation with Time-reversed Ultrasonically Encoded Light
  • Olivier Thouvenin, Brain And Spine Instiute (ICM Paris)France 
    Investigating the Properties of the Cerebrospinal Fluid in the Vertebrate Spinal Cord
  • Cathie Ventalon, Ecole PolytechniqueFrance 
    Portable and Modular Light Sheet Microscopy Platform
  • Chris Xu, Cornell UniversityUnited States 
    In Vivo Deep Imaging of the Brain
  • Wenjun Zhou, University of California DavisUnited States 
    Interferometric Diffusing-wave Spectroscopy of the Human Brain
  • Darcy Peterka, Columbia UniversityUnited States



  • Daniel Cote, Universite Laval, Canada , Chair
  • Joseph Culver, Washington University in St Louis, United States , Chair
  • Erin Buckley, Emory University, United States
  • Michael Crair, Yale University, United States
  • Hod Dana, HHMI - Janelia Farm Research Campus, United States
  • Anna Devor, University of California San Diego, United States
  • Mamadou Diop, Western University, Canada
  • Maria Angela Franceschini, Massachusetts General Hospital, United States
  • Timothy Holy, Washington University in St Louis, United States
  • Ori Katz, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Tim Murphy, Univ. of British Columbia, Canada
  • Chris Schaffer, Cornell University, United States
  • Shy Shoham, NYU Langone Health, United States
  • Spencer Smith, Univ of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States
  • Vivek Srinivasan, University of California Davis, United States
  • Francois St-Pierre, Baylor College of Medicine, United States
  • Jack Waters, Allen Institute for Brain Science, United States
  • Meryem Yucel, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Bio. Im, United States


Plenary Session

Stephen A. Boppart

Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Stain-Free Slide-Free Multiphoton Histopathology of Carcinogenesis and Cancer

Multiphoton microscopy has emerged as a powerful tool for stain-free slide-free histopathology. We have recently demonstrated a fiber-based nonlinear optical microscope that achieves fast and simultaneous visualization of a variety of intrinsic molecular contrasts within live tissue including auto-fluorescence excited by two/three-photon processes and specially structured molecules by second/third harmonic generation. Results from human subjects with and without breast cancer, and a pre-clinical rat mammary tumor model, show that extracellular vesicles (exosomes and microvesicles) may serve as new biomarkers for breast cancer. Real-time videos also demonstrate the versatility of this imaging platform in tracking cellular events, including tumor cell migration and leukocyte activation in living rats with carcinogen-induced mammary tumors.  

Histopathology, whether with standard hematoxylin and eosin or special immunohistochemical stains, has been the gold-standard process for the diagnosis of disease.  However, due to the intensive time and labor required for the histochemical treatment of the tissue in traditional histopathology, great efforts have been devoted to using label-free optical imaging for the examination of intact biological specimens, even in vivo. By shifting to a new excitation wavelength, our fiber-based multimodal nonlinear optical microscope achieves fast and simultaneous visualization of the rich intrinsic molecular information within fresh human breast tissue.  

In addition to the near-real-time visualization of the authentic tumor microenvironment, quantitative analysis of these multi-dimensional datasets was performed in search for more selective clinical biomarkers. Preliminary analysis conducted on fresh human breast tissue obtained from healthy and cancer subjects showed that a significant portion of extracellular vesicles from the tumor micro- and macro-environment have unique optical signatures in comparison with those from healthy subjects, opening investigations of their physiological role in carcinogenesis and their diagnostic value for cancer.  Collectively, the potential exists for real-time stain-free in vivohistopathology, promoting imaging-based scientific research, and potentially revealing new image-based biomarkers for diseases such as cancer.  

About the Speaker

Professor Boppart heads the Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory at the Beckman Institute and is a full-time faculty member in the Bioimaging Science and Technology group. His home departments are Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bioengineering, with affiliations with the Department of Internal Medicine in the College of Medicine, the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory and the Institute for Genomic Biology. Professor Boppart received his PhD in Electrical and Medical Engineering from MIT in 1998 and his MD from Harvard Medical School in 2000. Currently he combines his optical imaging and biophotonics research and teaching with clinical research in novel medical technologies.

Eric R. Fossum

Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth University, USA

Quanta Image Sensor: Photon counting with high resolution and high frame rate

The Quanta Image Sensor will be introduced and recent progress presented from a 1Mpixel, 1000fps, back-illuminated room temperature stacked device. The prototype device features very low dark count rate and high quantum efficiency with further improvements anticipated in the future.

About the Speaker

Dr. Eric R. Fossum is best known for the invention of the CMOS image sensor “camera-on-a-chip” used in billions of cameras, from smart phones to web cameras to pill cameras and many other applications.  He has been a Professor with the Thayer School of Engineering since 2010.  He also serves as Dartmouth’s Associate Provost for Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer. Fossum is a Queen Elizabeth Prize Laureate, the world’s largest engineering prize, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee, and a Fellow member of the IEEE and OSA.

Irene Georgakoudi

School of Engineering, Tufts University, USA

Unraveling the origins of endogenous optical metabolic changes

The ability to monitor subcellular functional and structural changes associated with metabolism is essential for understanding tissue development and disease progression. Metabolic perturbations or dysfunctions often play a critical role in numerous diseases, including cancer, obesity, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders. Established methods to assess metabolic processes are either destructive or require the use of exogenous compounds. However, such approaches are limited in their ability to capture the highly dynamic and heterogeneous nature of metabolic responses.  In my plenary presentation, I will explain how a combined use of endogenous two-photon intensity and lifetime based fluorescence measurements enable ways to identify changes in specific metabolic pathways. These functional insights can improve understanding of disease development and drug effects.

About the Speaker
Irene Georgakoudi has been working on the use of lasers for therapeutic and diagnostic applications since her undergraduate years. She started as a physicist at Dartmouth College and continued her graduate studies in Biophysics at the University of Rochester. Her interests in spectroscopy and spectroscopic imaging using endogenous sources of contrast were founded during her postdoctoral years at the MIT Spectroscopy Lab. After working on the development of fluorescence-based in vivo flow cytometry while an Instructor at the Wellman Laboratories for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, she moved to Tufts in 2004. She is the author of several patents on the development and use of spectroscopy and imaging to characterize tissues or to detect specific populations of cells and has published numerous peer reviewed manuscripts, review articles and book chapters in these topics. She is the recipient of a Claflin Distinguished Scholar, an NSF Career, and an American Cancer Society Research Scholar award. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Optical Society of America, and is the Director of the Tufts Advanced Microscopic Imaging Center (TAMIC).

Nozomi Nishimura

Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University, USA

Exploring natural behaviors of cells in the wild with in vivo multiphoton microscopy
Two-photon microscopy has become an important tool for experimental biology because it enables the dynamic imaging of cellular structures within a whole, living organism. Recent progress such as novel preparations, three-photon microscopy and third harmonic generation imaging reveal new phenomena in mouse models.
About the Speaker
Nozomi Nishimura majored in Physics at Harvard College where she worked with Prof. Eric Mazur on femtosecond laser ablation. In graduate school she became interested in neuroscience and worked with Prof. David Kleinfeld at University of California at San Diego. Although still in the Physics Department, her research focused on studying blood flow in the brain of rodents and developing laser-based models of small stroke. She went to Biomedical Engineering at Cornell in 2006 to do a postdoc with Prof. Chris Schaffer. She became an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering in 2013. At Cornell, current research expands the use of in vivo imaging techniques to study a variety of disorders including Alzheimer's disease, cardiac disease and cancer metastasis. As a postdoc, she was awarded a L'Oreal USA Fellowship for Women in Science, the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship and while at UC San Diego, she received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Kandice Tanner

Laboratory of Cell Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Institutes of Health, USA

Using Optical tweezers to probe the role of tissue biophysics in metastasis
Tumor latency and dormancy are obstacles in effective treatment of cancer. In the event of metastastic disease, emergence of a lesion can occur at varying intervals from diagnosis and in some cases following successful treatment of the primary tumor. Genetic factors that drive metastatic progression have been identified, such as those involved in cell adhesion, signaling, extravasation and metabolism.  Is there a difference in strategy to facilitate outgrowth? Why is there a difference in latency? One missing cue may be the role of tissue biophysics of the brain microenvironment on the infiltrated cells.  Here I discuss using optical tweezer based active microrheology to measure the mechanical cues that may influence disseminated tumor cells in different organ microenvironment. I further discuss in vitro and in vivo preclinical models such as 3D culture systems and zebrafish in efforts of providing novel targeted therapeutics.
About the Speaker
Kandice Tanner received her doctoral degree in Physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign under Professor Enrico Gratton. She completed post-doctoral training at the University of California, Irvine specializing in dynamic imaging of thick tissues. She then became a Department of Defense Breast Cancer Post-doctoral fellow jointly at University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under Dr. Mina J. Bissell. Dr. Tanner joined the National Cancer Institute as a Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator in July, 2012, where she integrates concepts from molecular biophysics and cell biology to learn how cells and tissues sense and respond to their physical microenvironment, and to thereby design therapeutics and cellular biotechnology. For her work, she has been awarded the 2013 National Cancer Institute Director’s Intramural Innovation Award, the 2015 NCI Leading Diversity award, 2016 Federal Technology Transfer Award, the 2016 Young Fluorescence Investigator award from the Biophysical Society and named as a Young Innovator in Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, which highlight her scientific accomplishments and service to the greater intramural NIH and extramural scientific community. She also maintains strong connections with the extramural community through service as an editorial board member of Scientific Reports and as a review editor for Frontiers in Cell and Development Biology. She currently serves on the Membership Committee of the American Society of Cell Biology, the Minority Affairs Committee of the Biophysical Society and is a Member at large for the Division of Biological Physics of the American Physical Society.

Arjun G. Yodh

Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania, USA

Diffuse Optical Monitoring of Biomarkers in Brain and Breast
I will describe our progress applying diffuse optical monitoring techniques to measure hemodynamics, metabolism, and autoregulation in brain and breast tissues. The brain studies demonstrate potential for usage as a bedside treatment management tool in the neuro-ICU, especially for patients with traumatic brain injury and acute stroke; the breast studies demonstrate potential of optical cancer therapy monitoring, especially for patients undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy prior to surgery. 
About the Speaker
Arjun G. Yodh is the James M. Skinner Professor of Science in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he is also Director of The Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM) and its NSF-supported Materials Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC).  Yodh has published over 300 papers (>32,000 citations, h-index 96) about research that spans the fields of Biomedical OpticsCondensed Matter Physics, and Atomic, Molecular & Optical Sciences. His biomedical research is oriented towards diffuse optical imaging and monitoring of brain, breast, and muscle, and towards monitoring of hemodynamic biomarkers during therapy. His group made key contributions to the development of this field starting from its earliest stages, including identification of connections between traditional and diffuse optics, elucidation of diffuse optical resolution and contrast limits, experimental demonstration of frequency-domain diffuse optical tomography, imaging of exogenous contrast agents in human breast cancer based on both absorption contrast and fluorescence contrast, development of diffuse correlation spectroscopy for measurement of tissue blood flow, first all-optical measurements of tissue oxygen metabolism in human brain, technique validation of the optical methods in pre-clinical and clinical contexts against MRI, Xe-CT, ultrasound and other traditional techniques, and more. Yodh is a Fellow of the OSA, APS, AAAS, and AIMBE. 


Special Events

NIRFAST Pre-Conference Training Workshop

Monday, 2 April, 08:00–18:00
The Diplomat Beach Resort, Meeting Room 314

The goal of this workshop is to provide hands-on instruction with NIRFAST for modeling light transport in tissue. The workshop will cover basic aspects of Nirfast and will include user driven examples on modeling light transport in tissues and performing tomographic image reconstruction. 

MCX'18 Pre-Conference Workshop

Monday, 2 April, 08:00–18:00
The Diplomat Beach Resort, Meeting Room 307

In this workshop, you will be provided with hands-on trainings on building fast and accurate Monte Carlo (MC) biophotonics simulations using open-source software - MCX (GPU accelerated MC simulator) and MMC (Mesh-based MC for accurate anatomical modeling). 

OSA Biomedical Optics Technical Groups Poster Award

Tuesday, 3 April - Thursday, 5 April
The Diplomat Beach Resort, Grand Ballroom East

OSA offers several technical groups focused on biomedical optics to provide you with a chance to connect with colleagues working in your area of specialization. As part of this congress, these technical groups are supporting an award for Best Poster Presentation for students and recent graduates.

Welcome Reception with Exhibitors

Tuesday, 3 April, 17:30–19:00
The Diplomat Beach Resort, Grand Ballroom East

Join your fellow attendees for the Congress Welcome Reception. Enjoy delectable fare while networking. One Welcome Reception ticket is included in the Full Technical Registration Fee. Guest tickets may be purchased for US $75.

Student & Early Career Professional Development & Networking Lunch and Learn

Wednesday, 4 April, 12:00–13:30
The Diplomat Beach Resort, Meeting Room 314
Join us for an interactive lunch and learn program focused on professional development within the Biophotonics field. This program will engage students and early career professionals with the key leaders in the field who will share their professional development journey and provide useful tips to those who attend. Lunch will be provided.

Hosted By:


Dinner Cruise on The Grand Floridian

Wednesday, 4 April, 18:00–20:00
The Diplomat Beach Resort, Diplomat Landing, Marina Dock

Attendee Ticket (Tickets are not included in registration fee): US $25
Guest Ticket: US $75

Cruise the Intracoastal waterway and enjoy dinner on a spectacular luxury yacht that offers four decks, a covered sky lounge and a spacious top deck for ocean views. Conference attendees may purchase extra tickets for their guests. Advance ticket purchase is required.

Cruise Schedule:
18:00–18:30 Boarding at the Diplomat Landing, Marina Dock
18:30 Cruise Departure
18:30–20:00 Cruise and Dinner Buffet
20:00 Return to Dock
21:00 Final Disembark

Workshop: Understanding Unconscious Bias

Thursday, 5 April, 12:00–13:30
The Diplomat Beach Resort, Atlantic Ballroom 1

Speaker: Sara Bendoraitis, American University, USA

Research demonstrates that we all have unconscious biases. These biases can result in best and brightest talent made to feel unwelcome, invisible, and not important to the success of the organization. This training will explore concepts and engage participants to better understand implicit bias, increase awareness and understanding the impact on organizational culture and identify ways to promote greater engagement with diversity and inclusion.

Hosted By:


Lost in Translation?: Clinical trial challenges across the Globe

Friday, 6 April, 12:00–13:30
The Diplomat Beach Resort, Grand Ballroom West

The potential for biophotonics technologies to have transformative clinical impact is clear. However, taking a great idea from the bench to the clinic, and then to market is a complex path to navigate. At this lunch event you will hear from a panel of experts who have taken on this challenge in order to deliver their technologies to those who need them. In particular, we will contrast the differences in design features and deployment strategies needed for technologies targeting markets such as the US and Europe, versus technologies for global health – an area well matched to the unique benefits of biophotonics. There will be ample time for questions, discussion and networking.


Image for keeping the session alive