- Researchers scanned the brain of a dead woman using a powerful 7-Tesla MRI.
- They collected 7.92 TeraBytes of raw data in a 100-hour scan process.
- The images are detailed enough to spot structures that are smaller than 0.1 millimeters wide.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of organs and tissues within the body. Unlike CT scans and PET scans, MRI doesn’t involve X-ray or the use of ionizing radiation.
It is widely used in clinics and hospitals for medical diagnosis and staging of disease(s). Approximately 50,000 MRI machines are estimated to be in use worldwide. The biggest markets are still the United States, followed by Europe and Japan.
The quality of an MR image depends on various factors, such as image contrast, spatial resolution, signal to noise ratio and carrier to noise to ratio. Modern ultra-high-field scanners can spot objects that are approximately 1 millimeter wise.
Recently, a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital scanned a whole human brain using a powerful 7-Tesla MRI. The magnetic field produced by such high-field MRI machines is 70,000 gauss. It revealed a 3D picture of the brain that is more detailed than ever before.
An Unprecedented Of The Human Brain
Researchers scanned the brain for more than 100 hours and acquired Single-echo multi-flip Fast Low-Angle SHot (FLASH) data at 100 µm isotropic resolution.
The final view is detailed enough to spot structures that are smaller than 0.1 millimeters wide. It can reveal tiny parts of the brain such as the amygdala in vivid detail.
This can help scientists better understand how subtle alterations in anatomy affect memory, decision-making, and emotional responses. These detailed pictures could also help them locate hard-to-spot brain abnormalities involved in disorders like coma, depression, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric conditions.
To get this view, researchers studied the brain of 58-year-old woman who died in a medical intensive care unit. Her donated brain was preserved for more than 2 years. She didn’t have any history of psychiatric or neurological disease.
Researchers created a custom spheroid case to hold the brain still and allow interfering air bubbles to escape from tissue cavities. They then sturdily enclosed the brain in the case and put it into a 7 Tesla MRI scanner.
The machine scanned the brain for almost 5 days. Accounting for localizers, adjustment scans, and quality assurance scans, the total scan time was 100 hours and 8 minutes. During the whole process, researchers collected 7.92 TeraBytes of raw data.
What About the Living Brain?
Although the FDA approved the first 7T scan for clinical imaging in 2017, it is nearly impossible to get the same kind of resolution on the brains of living people (at least with current technology).
For starters, patients won’t be able to tolerate a 5-day MRI. Even tiny movements, including those that come from blood flow and breathing, would distort the pictures. Thus, the technology can only be used in postmodern samples.
Researchers have released videos and underlying datasets for the public. They believe that it will have various clinical, educational, and investigational applications, which will eventually advance our knowledge of human brain anatomy in health and disease.