General anesthetics are known to have profound effects on cerebral hemodynamics and neuronal activities. However, it remains a challenge to directly assess anesthetics-induced hemodynamic and oxygen-metabolic changes from the true baseline under wakefulness at the microscopic level, due to the lack of an enabling technology for high-resolution functional imaging of the awake mouse brain. To address this challenge, we have developed head-restrained photoacoustic microscopy (PAM), which enables simultaneous imaging of the cerebrovascular anatomy, total concentration and oxygen saturation of hemoglobin (CHb and sO2), and blood flow in awake mice. From these hemodynamic measurements, two important metabolic parameters, oxygen extraction fraction (OEF) and the cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2), can be derived. Side-by-side comparison of the mouse brain under wakefulness and anesthesia revealed multifaceted cerebral responses to isoflurane, a volatile anesthetic widely used in preclinical research and clinical practice. Key observations include elevated cerebral blood flow (CBF) and reduced oxygen extraction and metabolism.
Enabling simultaneous high-resolution imaging of the total concentration of hemoglobin (CHb), oxygen saturation of hemoglobin (sO2), and cerebral blood flow (CBF), multiparametric photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) holds the potential to quantify the cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen at the microscopic level. However, its imaging speed has been severely limited by the pulse repetition rate of the dual-wavelength photoacoustic excitation and the scanning mechanism. To address these limitations, we have developed a new generation of multiparametric PAM. Capitalizing on a self-developed high-repetition dual-wavelength pulsed laser and an optical–mechanical hybrid-scan configuration, this innovative technique has achieved an unprecedented A-line rate of 300 kHz, leading to a 20-fold increase in the imaging speed over our previously reported multiparametric PAM that is based on pure mechanical scanning. The performance of the high-speed multiparametric PAM has been examined both in vitro and in vivo. Simultaneous PAM of microvascular CHb, sO2, and CBF in absolute values over a ∼3-mm-diameter brain region of interest can be accomplished within 10 min.