State-of-the-art MRI machine advances research on the brain’s inner workings

Patient being positioned for MR study of the head and abdomen. Image by Ptrump16. CC BY-SA 4.0,

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has provided the University of Arizona with a $2 million high-end instrumentation grant. This is designed to help with the purchase an advanced 3Tesla MRI instrument.

The instrument will be used for studying the human brain. The university will be among the first institutions to receive the new model, which is manufactured by Siemens Healthineers.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. MRI machines have become essential in brain science research because they provide a noninvasive, safe way to obtain detailed images of the brain. As examples, MRI has proved to be critical for understanding the neural mechanisms of memory, language and spatial navigation, how the brain changes with age, and how therapeutic interventions affect brain structure and function.

The device should improve the understanding of neurological functioning and accelerates the ability of researchers to have transformative impact across disciplines including health sciences, psychology and engineering.

MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets. When a person lies inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns water molecules in their body. Radio waves cause the aligned atoms to produce faint signals. These are used to create cross-sectional MRI images.

According to Arizona’s Professor Ted Trouard: “The new instrument will be the most powerful FDA-approved 3T MRI instrument in the world, allowing researchers to obtain the most detailed images possible.”

Trouard continues: “It will dramatically enhance current research projects and enable new research directions and discoveries.”

The instrument will be located in the Translational Bioimaging Resource, a new 20,000-square-foot facility in the Biosciences Research Laboratories building. Eighteen UArizona investigators are currently working on two dozen projects and they have plans for how to use the instrument, based on clearer and more comprehensive images of the brain, produced with greater speed.

The types of research being undertaken include seeking to improve the understanding of brain functions ranging from memory to sleep to empathy, as well as diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The MRI machine will additionally help research teams in fields including health sciences, psychology and engineering expedite their research.

State-of-the-art MRI machine advances research on the brain’s inner workings

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