Optical techniques based on photon migration are rapidly emerging as a promising alternative and/or augmentation of existing medical imaging modalities. For example, real time studies of hemodynamic changes in brain tissue are possible as a step towards optical functional brain imaging. Time-resolved implementations of these techniques allow for discrimination between scattering and absorption and for depth resolution. They require sub-nanosecond pulsed light sources with high repetition rate and sufficient power for deep enough tissue penetration. Picosecond diode lasers satisfy the clinical demands of economy, compact size, and reliability almost perfectly. Today multi-channel diode laser devices are commercially available and are widely used in diffuse optical imaging and spectroscopy, in particular in optical tomography and breast cancer detection. However, the output powers of these devices are just about sufficient for moderate tissue penetration depths. An improvement that does not compromise the advantages of the diode laser sources is amplification of the diode laser output by means of solid state tapered amplifiers. We present an amplified light source for use in NIR diffuse optical spectroscopy and imaging, providing pulse widths as short as 100 ps, adjustable repetition rates up to 80 MHz, and peak power levels as high as 7 Watts, corresponding to average power levels exceeding 100 mW. In combination with time-resolved photon counting electronics matching the high throughput demands in conjunction with the new source, state-of-the-art systems for diffuse optical imaging can be built. System design features and possible application examples are presented.