During 2022, the Boston University Neurophotonics Center (NPC) went through the process of renewing its charter to operate as a University Center. The charter was approved, and I very much look forward to continuing to work with the internal and external neurophotonics community. As our resources were stretched with preparing the renewal last year, we did not produce an annual report and as such this annual report is covering the last two years, academic years 2022 and 2023.
The biggest change in the NPC over these last two years, other than renewing its charter, was the addition of two new Associate Directors – Jerry Chen and Chris Gabel – joining Associate Director Anna Devor. I am grateful to being working with these three to maximize the impact that the NPC can have on the neurophotonics community. Each of them has their own particular focus for enhancing NPC’s impact. Anna continues to foster new collaborative efforts amongst the NPC faculty and their trainees. Chris joins Anna in this endeavor but with a focus on enhancing the impact of NPC on the Medical Campus (MED). And Jerry is focusing on improving the Neurophotonics Research Training (NRT) program. Over the coming year you will see more connections being made between the MED and Charles River Campus (CRC) as will be facilitated by an annual NPC MED Symposium and targeted brainstorming sessions for launching new cross campus collaborative activities. In addition, to help improve the NRT, we have submitted an NIH T32 graduate fellowship training grant and optimistically await its review.
The NRT trainees have been busy the last two years promoting and solidifying their activities. Our monthly social is a great opportunity to catch up with peers and meet new ones from whom you might just learn something new to help your own research. The trainees are now preceding the monthly social with a Neuro-Technology Tutorial, lead by one of the trainees who takes the opportunity to teach their peers about a tool they are utilizing to advance their neuroscientific research. Another group of trainees decided we needed regular discussions on neuroethics and are now arranging a few gatherings a year, including seminars and discussions led by outside neuroethics experts. And the trainees are continuing their roles in organizing the NPC Faculty Spotlight to introduce new students to the breadth of neurophotonics research opportunities at BU, in organizing the poster session for the annual NPC Symposium, and in hosting external speakers during their visits to BU to give seminars. I am very grateful to these various trainee committees for strengthening our community through their continued efforts.
Continuing its role in promoting faculty research programs and new collaborative initiatives, the NPC has supported over 25 projects over the last two years. Many of these projects are summarized in the pages that follow. Several research groups are taking advantage of the advanced microscopy tools available through the NPC imaging core for diverse projects studying the brains of rodents, songbirds, and flies! And more and more faculty from outside of the neurosciences are being drawn to the available imaging tools to enhance their research in other organs, for example in tumor biology and wound healing. These faculty continue to push for more advanced and versatile microscopy tools. For instance, the three-photon microscope is being utilized more and more, and another collaborative effort is developing a wearable two photon microscope. The study of human brain function with functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) is another area with tremendous collaborative activity at BU as it presently engages 10 faculty and their teams. Applications span autism, post-stroke gait and language rehabilitation, impact of Parkinson’s Disease and arthritis on gait, audio perception in the cocktail party problem, neurodegeneration, and the study of perception, attention, and memory in everyday world settings. A major focus of these groups is leveraging fNIRS and other wearable technologies to do Neuroscience in the Everyday World. This group is gaining traction in launching this NEW field that will draw upon multidisciplinary expertise from across campus beyond the core NPC faculty.
The NPC Associate Directors and I are always on the look-out for new projects and collaborative initiatives that the NPC can support. We have two funding mechanisms to help faculty: a seed award to support faculty in the utilization of core imaging equipment, and a Collaborative Award for Neurophotonics Devel-Opment (CAN DO). Details can be found on our web-page and we encourage faculty to reach out to us to discuss their ideas. I am excited to see what new activities will develop this coming year.
Director, Boston University Neurophotonics Center