Dr. Culver obtained a Ph. D. in physics at the University of Pennsylvania for work in ultrafast infrared laser spectroscopy. As a postdoc Dr. Culver developed diffuse optical tomography systems for imaging breast cancer and imaging cerebral hemodynamics in animals. In 2001, he joined the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School and continued work on optical mapping of brain function. In 2003 Dr. Culver joined the Department of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis where is now an Associate Professor. His lab explores ways of leveraging optical measurements to map brain activity and to image bio-molecular events.
Optical neuroimaging has never lacked clinical potential, due to its ability to longitudinally and non-invasively monitor brain function. However, progress towards the bedside practice of methods to map brain function, such as functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), has been hindered by conceptual and technical limitations. One obstacle is that task-based neuroimaging, which is standard in cognitive neuroscience research, is generally ill-suited to clinical populations since they may be unable to perform any task. Recently in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), it was discovered that even during the absence of overt tasks, fluctuations in brain activity are correlated across functionally-related cortical regions. Thus, the spatial and temporal evaluation of spontaneous neuronal activity has allowed mapping of these resting-state networks (RSNs). Translating these advances to optical techniques would enable new clinical and developmental studies. Yet, mapping spontaneous activity with fNIRS measurements presents significant challenges due to the obscuring influences of superficial signals, systemic physiology, and auto-regulation. In this talk, we will demonstrate the feasibility of functional connectivity DOT (fc-DOT). These fc-DOT methods provide a task-less approach to mapping brain function in populations that were previously difficult to research. Our advances may permit new studies of early childhood development and of unconscious patients. In addition, the comprehensive hemoglobin contrasts of fc-DOT also enable innovative studies of the biophysical origin of the functional connectivity signal. Possible extensions to animal models will also be discussed.