[Homestead] Decoding human brain processes

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Wed Sep 22 13:03:16 EDT 2004


tvoivozhd---Decoding human brain processes has always been slow and 
difficult, relying on inferences from from brain-damage and its 
consequences.  Now there is a tool to proceed on a rational and much 
speedier basis.



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/Source:/ 	*University Of Illinois At Chicago* 	
/Date:/ 	2004-09-21

	

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    UIC Unveils World's Most Powerful MRI For Decoding The Human Brain

The University of Illinois at Chicago unveiled today the world's most 
powerful magnetic resonance imaging machine for human studies, capable 
of imaging not just the anatomy but metabolism within the brain.

This advanced technology ushers in a new age of metabolic imaging that 
will help researchers understand the workings of the human brain, detect 
diseases before their clinical signs appear, develop targeted drug 
therapies for illnesses like stroke and provide a better understanding 
of learning disabilities.

Central to the technology is a 9.4-tesla magnet, larger than any other 
human-sized magnet, built by GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric 
Company. A tesla is a large measuring unit of magnetic strength.

"This technological leap forward is as revolutionary to the medical 
community as the transition from radio to television was for society," 
said Dr. Keith Thulborn, director of the UIC Center for Magnetic 
Resonance Research, at the facility's grand opening today. "GE's magnet 
is introducing a whole new dimension to imaging by enabling researchers 
to better understand how the human brain thinks, learns, fights disease 
and responds to experimental therapies."

"UIC's new Center for Magnetic Resonance Research featuring GE's 
9.4-tesla magnet will be a premier international center for human brain 
research," Thulborn said. "What we learn here in Chicago will be shared 
with researchers and physicians around the world."

*A New Dimension in Human Brain Imaging *

An MRI machine images internal structures of the body using magnetism, 
radio waves and a computer. A circular magnet surrounds the patient and 
creates a strong magnetic field that aligns atoms in the body. A pulse 
of radio waves then rearranges them, creating a signal that is passed to 
a computer, producing an image.

The current industry standard for MRI systems is 1.5 tesla, which limits 
researchers to imaging water molecules. As a result, only anatomical 
changes can be detected and monitored.

By contrast, the 9.4-tesla magnet, which is three times more powerful 
than current state-of-the-art clinical MRI magnets and more than 100,000 
times stronger than the earth's magnetic field, will enable UIC 
researchers to detect signals from sodium, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, 
and oxygen -- the metabolic building blocks of brain function and human 
thought.

"Brain scanning is pushed to the limit with the current technology -- we 
need the sensitivity of the 9.4-tesla magnet to go beyond anatomic 
imaging to metabolic imaging," Thulborn said. "Metabolism provides the 
energy that drives brain function and therefore offers the key to 
uncovering the mysteries of the mind."

Thulborn worked with GE researchers to develop the 9.4-tesla MRI system.

"We developed this 9.4-tesla magnet in conjunction with Dr. Thulborn to 
provide the research community an in-depth look into how metabolism 
drives brain function and to provide answers to some of the brain's 
greatest mysteries," said Dennis Cooke, vice president of GE 
Healthcare's Global MR Business. "This is a one-of-a-kind tool in the 
hands of UIC's capable researchers, who aim to identify, develop and 
apply innovative applications for diagnosing and treating patients."

"GE is committed to developing technologies that enable researchers to 
push the frontiers of medicine and pioneer new treatments."

*Applying 9.4-Tesla Research to Human Health and Learning *

Specifically, Thulborn will use the 9.4-tesla MRI scanner to help 
identify and monitor many common conditions and diseases of the brain -- 
including stroke, Alzheimer's, autism and mental illness.

"The work we're doing mapping human thoughts brings so much promise to 
the future of medical research, specifically to our ability to really 
understand more about brain diseases," said Thulborn. "The medical and 
social implications of this technology include more personalized 
healthcare and earlier intervention to prevent disease."

In addition, Thulborn plans to apply the 9.4-tesla system to observing 
and potentially treating cognitive learning disorders, like attention 
deficit disorder.

"If we can understand how children learn, we can tailor educational 
programs to better teach them, regardless of whether they have learning 
difficulties. By understanding the different ways that the brain learns, 
more efficient and effective learning programs can be produced for such 
skills as reading, music and mathematics," said Thulborn.

*Editor's Note:* The original news release can be found here 
<http://tigger.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/newsbureau/cgi-bin/index.cgi?from=Releases&to=Release&id=913&fromhome=1>.

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/This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University Of 
Illinois At Chicago./




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