A Caltech professor, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Southern California, has demonstrated for the first time a new technology for imaging the human brain using laser light and ultrasonic sound waves.

The technology, known as photoacoustic computerized tomography, or PACT, has been developed by Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, as a method for imaging tissues and organs. Previous versions of the PACT technology have been shown capable of imaging the inner structures of a rat’s body; PACT is also capable of detecting tumors in human breasts, making it a possible alternative to mammograms.

Now, Wang has made further improvements to the technology that make it so precise and sensitive that it can detect even minute changes in the amount of blood traveling through very tiny blood vessels as well as the oxygenation level of that blood. Since blood…

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