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Researchers use Zemax OpticStudio to Develop Breakthrough Brain Imaging System

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Scientists at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill with the support of the National Science Foundation are using Zemax OpticStudio software to develop new optical systems for two-photon microscopy. This work is part of the White House’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative – a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.

Two-photon microscopy reveals brain activity with single neuron resolution, but it requires highly concentrated light, thus it is very sensitive to imperfections in microscope optics called aberrations. Certain aberrations grow in severity from the center to the edge of the field of view, so in practice single neuron resolution is only preserved in small portions of individual brain areas, about half a millimeter across. Since the entire brain works together, many aspects of brain function are difficult to study with such a limited field of view. The new optical systems for two-photon microscopy will simultaneously image multiple brain areas with single neuron resolution.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, with the support of Zemax and the National Science Foundation, are engineering new optical systems to preserve single neuron resolution across large fields of view for two-photon microscopy of neural activity. The laboratory of Dr. Spencer Smith, including postdoctoral fellow Dr. Jeffrey Stirman, and collaborator Dr. Michael Kudenov of North Carolina State University are working together to engineer highly customized optical systems to minimize aberrations across large fields of view to enable high resolution two-photon imaging of multiple brain areas. Using Zemax OpticStudio software, they model optical systems and optimize performance. The extensive optimization tools and stock lens matching tool in OpticStudio help them rapidly develop the custom optical subsystems for the next generation two-photon microscope.

This multi-institute initiative is being supported by both federal and private foundations. For Dr. Smith’s work, the National Science Foundation and Zemax are supporting the advanced optical instrument development, and the Simons Foundation is supporting the groundbreaking neuroscience research that will take advantage of the new microscope.

About Zemax
Industry leaders in optics and illumination rely on Zemax for cutting edge design and simulation software that reduce costs, and shorten time-to-innovation. Zemax delivers design software, training, and support services that set the standards for the optical and illumination industry. Zemax is unmatched as the preferred design platform for researchers, engineers, designers and students around the world. Zemax is based in Redmond, WA, USA and is part of the Radiant Zemax family of companies.

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