Beckman to Acquire Powerful New Optical Instrument

Images from the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory's EROS optical imaging method.

Thanks to a team effort by researchers and grant money from the stimulus program, the Beckman Institute’s Biomedical Imaging Center (BIC) will soon be home to a new and uniquely powerful optical imaging system. The National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant to acquire a frequency-domain diffusive optical imaging (DOT) system to be housed in BIC.

Thanks to a team effort by researchers and grant money from the stimulus program, the Beckman Institute’s Biomedical Imaging Center (BIC) will soon be home to a new and uniquely powerful optical imaging system. The National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant to acquire a frequency-domain diffusive optical imaging (DOT) system to be housed in BIC.

The acquisition will give researchers at the University of Illinois access to an optical imaging system with capabilities unlike any open-user machine of its type in the world. The 128-source, 24-detector Dual-Imagent system produced by ISS of Champaign has the ability to record up to 1,536 channels (source-detector combinations) for human and animal recordings. Gabriele Gratton of Beckman’s Biological Intelligence (BioIntel) research theme led the successful effort, which also included investigators from BioIntel and the Integrative Imaging research theme.

Gratton said the new instrument is based on the same optical tomography method called EROS used by the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory (CNL) he directs with Beckman colleague Monica Fabiani. But this system will be much larger with more sources and detectors, and will offer the capability of recording four wavelengths. He said that there have been so many requests from other researchers to use CNL’s optical imaging system that a larger system open to users outside his lab and Beckman was needed.

“We had a lot of researchers who asked about possible collaborations and use of the optical tomography system that we have,” Gratton said. “As it is impossible to satisfy all of these requests, it was critical for us to have a device that is for general use, not only for our lab but for all of these other investigators. These investigators come from many departments, not only psychology but also speech and hearing science, biology, animal sciences, and bioengineering.”

Gratton said there are a few similar instruments around the world like the Imagent system that will be acquired with the grant, but none with the size, capabilities and usefulness of this one.

“What is completely novel is a machine like this that is available for open research to various people,” he said. “This will generate a new situation for optical imaging in which we can record a lot of things and have a lot of people using this machine. This will allow some research that we have always thought about doing or considered but never had the ability to do.”

Gratton said that the instrument is designed for measuring brain activity and function, including vascular function. It can also be used in conjunction with BIC’s magnetic resonance imaging machines.

“Our idea is that this machine will be used the majority of the time on its own but sometimes along with the MR machine,” he said. “That is a thing you can do that is very interesting and very novel, and not many people have done it.”

The Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory will provide data analysis software for the instrument and the Beckman Institute will provide a 50% appointment for a specialist in optical and electrophysiological recording to help end-users in setting up their studies.

Gratton said the local demand for such an instrument and the call by the National Institutes of Health for developing high-end instrumentation with the stimulus money created an opportunity he and the other researches couldn’t pass up. He said Integrative Imaging research theme co-chairs Stephen Boppart and Zhi-Pei Liang, BIC Director Greg Miller and fellow BioIntel faculty members Diane Beck, Neal Cohen, and Fabiani, as well as CNL lab members Maclin and Kathy Low, contributed to the proposal.

Gratton also thanked former Beckman Institute Director Tamer Başar, Beckman Associate Director Van Anderson and Grants and Contracts Coordinator Lori Butler for their support for the proposal.