Birmingham Launches Imaging Centre

Scientists involved in studying the human brain and heart will be able to use state of the art digital scans in their work, with the opening of a new centre a the University of Birmingham, dedicated to MRI scanning.

Professor Sir Peter Mansfield who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2003 for his pioneering work in magnetic imaging, will officially launch the new Birmingham University Imaging Centre the centre on March 2nd.

The £2.3 million pound centre provides high quality MRI imaging facilities, which can be used in a wide range of medical and psychological research. The 3 Tesla MRI scanner, which is centrepiece of the Centre’s diagnostic work, is able to provide detailed image scans of the brain and heart. The scanner also includes sophisticated technology to monitor how the brain responds to small movements of a person’s limbs and eyes.

Current research projects at the centre include investigations into how the brain’s response to visual signals gives rise to word recognition and reading.

A team from the University’s Department of Psychology are also using the scanner’s techniques for monitoring eye and hand movement to help understand how the brain operates in learning tasks like controlling a cursor or mouse. The research team are particularly interested in how disrupting a simple activity, (for example by getting someone to use a mouse turned through 180 degrees) affects the brain.

Professor Glyn Humphreys the Centre’s Director said: “Over the last thirty years MRI has become an extremely important tool for a whole host of scientists interested in the functioning of the brain. We are delighted to welcome Sir Peter Mansfield to launch the centre as his work helped transform Nuclear Magnetic Resonance into a standard medical imaging technique.

We hope that having these facilities will help bring researchers from a wide range of different fields, who can benefit from high quality MRI images. To get volunteers used to having an MRI scan, we have also installed a full size mock up of the main scanner, which gets people acclimatised to being in a confined space before they have a scan.”

The technology is also a potentially powerful diagnostic tool for clinicians working in heart medicine. The University Department of Cardiovascular Medicine will use the technology to better understand the physiology of heart failure and to develop and evaluate new therapies for heart failure and other heart diseases.

Michael Frenneaux, BHF Professor in Cardiology at the University said: “ MRI has the capacity to evaluate not only cardiac function and blood flow but the ‘energy status’ of the heart. This makes the new scanner a particularly useful tool in our work looking at the role of energetic impairment in heart muscle diseases and the effects of therapies aimed at correcting this.”

The event on March 2nd, brings together leading experts in magnetic imaging to discuss the latest developments in using these techniques. The official opening ceremony, will take place at 12.20pm

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

For more information contact Ben Hill 0121 4145134 or mobile 07789 921 163.

The BUIC

The BUIC was built, thanks to a £2.3 million SRIF grant.

Facilities include:

3T Philips Achieva MRI scanner

State-of-the-art stimulus delivery and recording equipment

Mock scanner with duplicate stimulus delivery and recording

In-scanner eye movement recording

In-scanner limb movement recording

In-scanner simultaneous EEG recording

High performance computing for data analysis

MRI SCANNING

MRI is a relatively recently developed technique which combines the use of magnetic fields and radiowaves to image the body. MRI does not use any ionizing radiation or X-rays and there are no known side-effects or cumulative risks. FMRI (functional MRI) uses similar methods to conventional clinical MRI to obtain 'functional' brain images. The technique relies on indirectly identifying small changes in blood flow/oxygenation in different parts of the brain.

The MRI scanner is a large cylinder, which has a tube (bore) running through the middle, open at both ends. You will enter the scanner tube on a moveable bed, laid down on your back, head-first, with your lower legs remaining outside the magnet's bore.