World’s most powerful MRI device reveals unprecedented images of the human brain | Health

World’s most powerful MRI device reveals unprecedented images of the human brain | Health
World’s most powerful MRI device reveals unprecedented images of the human brain | Health
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1 of 3 Image of Iseult with a magnetic field of 11.7 tesla. — Photo: Reproduction/French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
Image of Iseult with a magnetic field of 11.7 tesla. — Photo: Reproduction/French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)

The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) released this Tuesday (2) the first images of the human brain made by the device most powerful MRI in the world. According to those responsible for the project, the scanner reached a unprecedented level of precisionsomething that can be decisive for detecting diseases.

Researchers first used the machine to scan a pumpkin in 2021. Recently, health authorities authorized the device’s use on humans.

Over the past few months, about 20 healthy volunteers have volunteered to have their brains scanned. The machine is located in a laboratory in Saclay, a city south of Paris.

“We saw a level of precision never before achieved in CEA,” said Alexandre Vignaud, a physicist working on the project.

O magnetic field created by the scanner is 11.7 teslas. This power allows the machine scan images 10 times more accurate than devices normally used in hospitals – whose power generally does not exceed three teslas.

On a computer screen, Vignaud compared images taken by this powerful scanner, nicknamed Iseult, with images from a normal MRI.

“With this machine we can see the small vessels that feed the cerebral cortex, or details of the brain that were almost invisible until now”, he details.

2 of 3 Axial view of the brain, under the same acquisition time, but with different magnetic field intensities. — Photo: Reproduction/French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
Axial view of the brain, under the same acquisition time, but with different magnetic field intensities. — Photo: Reproduction/French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)

The device consists of a cylinder five meters wide and five meters high. Within this structure is a 132 ton magnet powered by a 1,500 amp coil. The opening through which the patient enters is 90 centimeters wide.

The machine is the result of two decades of research by a partnership between French and German engineers.

The United States and South Korea are working on equally powerful MRI machines, but have not yet begun scanning images of humans.

One of the main objectives of the project is deepen understanding of brain anatomy It is understand which areas are activated when performing certain tasks.

Scientists have already used MRI scanners to demonstrate that when the brain recognizes particular things, such as faces, places or words, two regions of the cerebral cortex are activated.

The 11.7 Tesla power will help Iseult “better understand the relationship between brain structure and cognitive functions, for example when we read a book or perform a mental calculation,” said Nicolas Boulant, the project’s scientific director.

3 of 3 Brain image scanned by the Iseult project. — Photo: Reproduction/French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
Brain image scanned by the Iseult project. — Photo: Reproduction/French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)

Ally against Alzheimer’s

The researchers hope that the scanner’s power will also aid in investigation of neurodegenerative diseasessuch as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, or psychological problemssuch as depression or schizophrenia.

“For example, we know that a specific area of ​​the brain, the hippocampus, is involved in Alzheimer’s disease, so we hope to be able to discover how cells in this part of the cerebral cortex work,” said CEA researcher Anne-Isabelle Etienvre.

Scientists also intend map how certain medications used to treat bipolar disorder, such as lithium, are distributed throughout the brain.

O strong magnetic field created by magnetic resonance can help identify which parts of the brain are influenced by lithium. This tool can help understand which patients should respond better or worse to the medication.

“If we can better understand these very harmful diseases, we can diagnose them earlier and therefore treat them better,” said Etienvre.

Iseult should not yet be used in common patients in the coming years. This is because, according to Boulant, the device “is not intended to become a clinical diagnostic tool, but we hope that the knowledge acquired can be used in hospitals.”

A new group of volunteers is expected to be recruited in the coming months to have their brains scanned.

Understand how a gun can fire during an MRI exam

The article is in Portuguese

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