VIDEO: Faster, Stronger, Better Resolution: BIC Upgrades MRI

Not all MRI scans are the same! Thanks to funding from the Beckman Foundation and the University of Illinois, the Biomedical Imaging Center at Beckman can provide higher spatial resolution, reduced scanning time, and improved images. A timelapse video shows how the equipment was upgraded.

If you’ve ever had a scan in an MRI machine, chances are, you probably haven’t been focusing on the quality of the images that your scan will provide. However, researchers at the Biomedical Imaging Center (BIC) at the Beckman Institute work very hard to provide the best images possible for projects that span the fields of engineering, psychology, neuroscience, physiology, and biology.

Thanks to funding from the Beckman Foundation and the University of Illinois, the BIC has upgraded one of its Siemens full-body 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines from a Magnetom Trio to a Prisma. New capabilities include reduced scanning time, higher spatial resolution, and improved images, due to software improvements.

“We have neuroscientists and engineers collaborating on a variety of ways to measure the brain with MRI,” said Brad Sutton, associate professor of bioengineering and technical director of BIC. “This equipment ensures that our methods and our findings will have the maximum impact, getting the best results from the best available equipment.”

“This equipment ensures that our methods and our findings will have the maximum impact, getting the best results from the best available equipment.”  -Brad Sutton, technical director of BIC

One benefit of the new system is higher resolution images.  A higher magnetic field gradient allows researchers to see finer structural details of the object being scanned.

“The gradient strength of the Prisma is two times greater than the Trio,” said Ryan Larsen, a research scientist at BIC. “In principle, this should allow us to nearly double the spatial resolution of our images.”

Larsen also explained how the upgrade allows for reduced scanning time by collecting information from the multiple coils that surround the body being imaged. The previous scanner had 32 separate channels for receiving the MRI signal, and the new scanner has 64, allowing the group to more rapidly acquire images. 

The new system will also improve the quality of the images.

“In MRI, we deal with small signals from a limited number of atomic nuclei,” said Larsen. “In the Prisma, the signal is generated and received close to the person being scanned, so less information is lost.  This reduces contamination from electrical noise, and allows us to obtain clearer images.”

The second of BIC’s full-body MRI scanners will be upgraded similarly later this year.

BIC has a rich tradition of innovation in MRI, spectroscopy, ultrasound, and near-infrared imaging. It traces its heritage to the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory founded in 1985 by Paul Lauterbur, 2003 winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Current projects at BIC range from looking at changes in the brain due to fitness, nutrition, and training; examining muscle movements during speech; examining brain function and structure changes associated with age, tinnitus, multiple sclerosis and normal development; and a variety of other questions spanning engineering, psychology, neuroscience, physiology, and biology.

Recent innovations have included an MRI technique for dynamic imaging at 110 frames per second, the development of non-invasive magnetic resonance elastography, which can investigate the mechanical properties of the brain in vivo, and a PET-CT imaging strategy to non-invasively monitor cardiovascular health.

Funding from the University of Illinois came from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, the College of Engineering, and the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, and the Beckman Institute.