Since optical contrast is sensitive to functional parameters, including the hemoglobin oxygen saturation and the total concentration of hemoglobin, imaging based on optical contrast has been widely employed for the real-time monitoring of tissue oxygen consumption and hemodynamics in biological tissues. However, due to the overwhelming scattering of light in tissues, traditional optical imaging modalities cannot provide satisfactory spatial resolution. Functional photoacoustic tomography is a novel technique that combines high optical contrast and high ultrasonic resolution. Here, we present our study of a laser-based photoacoustic technique that, for the first time to our knowledge, monitors blood oxygenation in the rat brain in vivo. The cerebral blood oxygenation in the rat brain was imaged by photoacoustic detection at two wavelengths. The change in the hemoglobin oxygen saturation in the brain vessels as a result of the alternation from hyperoxia status to hypoxia status was visualized successfully with satisfactory spatial resolution. This work demonstrates that photoacoustic technique, based on the spectroscopic absorption of oxy- and deoxy-hemoglobin, can provide accurate functional imaging of cerebral blood oxygenation in the small-animal brain non-invasively with the skin and skull intact.