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Latest Issue
Nov/Dec 2021

Lasers on the brain

Existing treatments, such as laser ablation, and therapies currently in research and development both hold promise for patients and clinicians who seek to successfully cross the divide between living with epileptic seizures and experiencing an improved quality of life. Laser-based techniques also present a viable alternative to traditional, often risky, resection surgery, in which a portion of brain tissue containing the epileptic focus is removed. While resection remains a common procedure, the challenge is always how to cut very precisely to avoid damaging necessary neurological functioning. And modern lasers can perform some of the cleanest cuts of all.

The standard measuring stick for evaluating the outcome of epilepsy procedures is the Engel Epilepsy Surgery Outcome Scale, which is based on degrees of freedom from seizures. Class I means completely seizure free, Classes II and III represent reductions in frequency, and Class IV indicates no improvement. If Class I is achieved, then normal life activities such as driving can often resume.

Research has proven the effectiveness of diode laser ablation systems, such as Visualase and NeuroBlate, which have been on the market for years. As I write in our cover story in this brain-themed edition of BioPhotonics, the laser — guided by MRI — burns the tissue from which seizures are propagating, leaving other nearby tissue untouched. Research at Cornell University could potentially take this technology to the next level. It involves cutting the connections through which seizures spread while preserving the connections needed for other signals to be sent — those used to complete specific physical tasks, for example. Read about the future prospects of this technology here.

Other highlights in this issue include an article by Michael Wenzel and Rafael Yuste, who relate how two-photon imaging is helping to analyze changes in the brain during anesthesia. What this study uncovers could guide doctors and therapists in plotting a course of treatment that is more safe and effective. Learn more here.

Also in this issue, authors Silvia Noble Anbunesan, Alba Alfonso-Garcia, and Laura Marcu explain how fluorescence lifetime imaging has enabled the precise definition of the margins of glioblastoma, a devastating and infiltrative form of brain cancer. Follow how their work has progressed on page 36. And authors Nicolas Perez, Pegah Pouladian, and Daryl Preece describe their use of lasers to induce shock waves and employ quantitative phase imaging techniques to follow the progression of traumatic brain injury. Explore their investigation here.

Elsewhere, Ian Read articulates how NIR spectroscopy measures oxygen distribution in the brain following a stroke to discover where a blockage occurred and to target treatment. Follow these developments here. And finally, in “Biopinion,” Hanli Liu and Michael Cho argue that the use of photostimulation in treatment of various neurological conditions and diseases deserves the same attention and research funding opportunities that are afforded pharmacological therapeutics. Read about their view here.

Enjoy the issue!

Mike Wheeler
As editor-in-chief, Michael Wheeler oversees Photonics Media's editorial operations — spanning print, web, and podcasts. He also serves as editor of Vision Spectra, chronicling advancements in the rapidly expanding machine vision/inspection sector.
Dan McCarthy
Senior editor Dan McCarthy manages editorial content and production for Photonics Spectra. An award-winning writer and editor, he has communicated the progress and practical value of advanced technologies for over two decades.
Doug Farmer
Senior Editor Douglas Farmer has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, winning awards for health and education reporting. He has a master's degree in journalism from Ball State University. He is editor of EuroPhotonics and BioPhotonics magazines.
Sarah Weiler
As Webinar & Social Media Coordinator, Sarah Weiler organizes and produces all Photonics Media webinars and manages social media content. With a background in writing and editing, she also contributes to the print publications.
Hank Hogan
Contributing Editor Hank Hogan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in the semiconductor industry and now writes about science and technology.
Marie Freebody
Contributing Editor Marie Freebody is a freelance science and technology journalist with a master’s degree in physics and a concentration in nuclear astrophysics from the University of Surrey in England.
Farooq Ahmed
Farooq Ahmed has covered the physical and biological sciences for over a decade. He has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Brown University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Columbia University.
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