The IAP was founded on June 2nd, 1961 as part of the faculty of natural sciences. Today about 56 employees research and teach in four divisions focusing on Biomedical Photonics, Laser Physics, Nonlinear Optics and Microwave Physics.
Backscattering polarimetric imaging of the human brain to determine the orientation and degree of alignment of nerve fiber bundles
The nerve fiber bundles constitutive of the white matter in the brain are organized in such a way that they exhibit a certain degree of structural anisotropy and birefringence. The birefringence exhibited by such aligned fibrous tissue is known to be extremely sensitive to small pathological alterations. Indeed, highly aligned anisotropic fibers exhibit higher birefringence than structures with weaker alignment and anisotropy, such as cancerous tissue. In this study, we performed experiments on thick coronal slices of a healthy human brain to explore the possibility of (i) measuring, with a polarimetric microscope the birefringence exhibited by the white matter and (ii) relating the measured birefringence to the fiber orientation and the degree of alignment. This is done by analyzing the spatial distribution of the degree of polarization of the backscattered light and its variation with the polarization state of the probing beam. We demonstrate that polarimetry can be used to reliably distinguish between white and gray matter, which might help to intraoperatively delineate unstructured tumorous tissue and well organized healthy brain tissue. In addition, we show that our technique is able to sensitively reconstruct the local mean nerve fiber orientation in the brain, which can help to guide tumor resections by identifying vital nerve fiber trajectories thereby improving the outcome of the brain surgery.