To date, the vast majority of intra-vital neuroimaging systems applied in clinic and diagnostics is stationary with a rigid scanning element, requires specialized facilities and costly infrastructure. Here, we describe a simple yet radical approach for optoacoustic (photoacoustic) brain imaging in vivo using a light-weight handheld probe. It enables multispectral video-rate visualization of hemoglobin gradient changes in the cortex of adult rats induced by whisker and forelimb sensory inputs, as well as by optogenetic stimulation of intra-cortical connections. With superb penetration and molecular specificity, described here method holds major promises for future applications in research, routine ambulatory neuroimaging, and diagnostics.

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