New tool will allow more advanced MRI research

Only 40 of these scanners exist in the world

Published: September 14 2013 | 7:00 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 8:26 pm in
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IOWA CITY — With the addition of a new piece of equipment, the University of Iowa will become the first institution in the state to have an imaging device that will allow for more detail than previously possible.

By early next year, the university is set to take possession of a 7 Tesla Scanner, a magnetic imaging device. There are only about 40 such scanners worldwide, said Vincent Magnotta, associate professor of radiology and director of the university's Magnetic Resonance Imaging facility.

"Clinically available scanners are 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla," Magnotta said. "This is 7 Tesla, meaning that it's 2.3 times stronger magnetic field than what we typically have available for clinical imaging.

"What this really allows you to do is get very high potential for anatomical detail."

While all scanners look at water in the body, Magnotta said, this scanner will allow researchers to look at other molecules such as sodium, which is not possible at lower field strengths.

The scanner will produce "clearer, higher-resolution images of the brain, enhancing researchers' ability to study the brain's function and connectivity," according to Nancy Andreasen, a psychiatry professor who has worked with magnetic imaging equipment for 30 years.

Magnotta said the scanner will provide "exquisite detail of the brain."

"If you want to look at Alzheimer's disease, understand progressions disease as well as possible treatments ... right now, at 3T, we can maybe measure the volume of hippocampus ... with the 7 Tesla scanner we can actually delineate that into subregions," he said. "We have much more power to be able to detect changes in the brain."

In addition, the Tippie College of Business plans to use the scanner for work in neurosciences, studying how the brain engages in everyday decision making.

UI's Magnetic Resource Imaging facility won an $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to purchase the device. The tool will be in the on the first floor of the Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building, now under construction.

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