Imaging of human tissue using noninvasive techniques has been of great interest in biomedical fields. Optical imaging has attracted a lot of attention because of its portability and economy. The possibility that a highly portable, fast, safe, and affordable imaging system which could obtain interpretable images of brain function for pre- and full-term neonates in a few seconds, has been explored in this article. We have used a sensitive optical topography system, termed phased array, in which a pair of equal-amplitude and antiphase light sources are applied to generate a sharp amplitude null and phase transition plane. This two-wavelength (750 and 830 nm), frequency encoded (50 and 52 MHz) phased array imaging system can indicate the blood concentration and oxygenation changes in blood model studies and during parietal brain activation in neonates. Significant functional responses, particularly to parietal stimulation in normal and pathological states of neonatal brain, have been revealed in our study. The preliminary clinical results are presented in this article. © 2000 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.