Near-infrared light propagation in various models of the adult head is analyzed by both time-of-flight measurements and mathematical prediction. The models consist of three- or four-layered slabs, the latter incorporating a clear cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) layer. The most sophisticated model also incorporates slots that imitate sulci on the brain surface. For each model, the experimentally measured mean optical path length as a function of source-detector spacing agrees well with predictions from either a Monte Carlo model or a finite-element method based on diffusion theory or a hybrid radiosity-diffusion theory. Light propagation in the adult head is shown to be highly affected by the presence of the clear CSF layer, and both the optical path length and the spatial sensitivity profile of the models with a CSF layer are quite different from those without the CSF layer. However, the geometry of the sulci and the boundary between the gray and the white matter have little effect on the detected light distribution.
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