Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2023

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Biology & Biomedical Sciences (Neurosciences)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Functional neuroimaging has been used to map brain function as well as decode information from brain activity. However, applications like studying early brain development or enabling augmentative communication in patients with severe motor disabilities have been constrained by extant imaging modalities, which can be challenging to use in young children and entail major tradeoffs between logistics and image quality. Diffuse optical tomography (DOT) is an emerging method combining logistical advantages of optical imaging with enhanced image quality. Here, we developed one of the world’s largest DOT systems for high-performance optical brain imaging in children. From visual cortex activity in adults, we decoded the locations of checkerboard visual stimuli, e.g. localizing a 60 degree wedge rotating through 36 positions with an error of 25.8±24.7 degrees. Using animated movies as more child-friendly stimuli, we mapped reproducible responses to speech and faces with DOT in awake, typically developing 1-7 year-old children and adults. We then decoded with accuracy significantly above chance which movie a participant was watching or listening to from DOT data. This work lays a valuable foundation for ongoing research with wearable imaging systems and increasingly complex algorithms to map atypical brain development and decode covert semantic information in clinical populations.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Joseph P. Culver

Committee Members

Tamara Hershey, Jin-Moo Lee, Bradley L. Schlaggar, Christopher D. Smyser,