Skip to main content

Ultra-High Field Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Final Report Summary - HIMR (Ultra-High Field Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

This project fully succeeded in meeting its aim to train 13 early stage researchers as the future leaders of academic and industrial research in the fundamental science and novel applications of ultra-high field (UHF) in vivo magnetic resonance (MR), to address an increasing and previously unmet demand for such specialists from academia and industry. The 13 early stage researchers came from Cyprus, Germany, America, Italy, Portugal, China, Iran and Kazakhstan. Seven of these 13 researchers were female, which will have a significant impact on the gender balance of this male dominated field which is fundamentally based in physics and engineering. They rapidly developed into a lively and friendly, multidisciplinary and multi-institutional team, supporting each other, sharing experience and knowledge and forging new links between the host institutions. One student will be undertaking the final exam for his PhD in December 2016, and the others are expected to complete their studies by October 2017. All the ESRs plan to remain in MRI, three in industry, the rest in academia. The ESRs worked between their host lab, and another lab or industrial collaborator to undertake ground breaking research, but they also found time to undertake a wide range of outreach activities to inspire the next generation of European scientists.

All human studies were undertaken with appropriate approval from a local ethics committee.

A number of ESRs worked on improved techniques for imaging particular MR parameters. At Nottingham Geades (ESRA) developed novel methods for acquiring and quantitatively analysing MR data particular related to Magnetization transfer techniques, which particularly benefit from UHF. He also applied these techniques to monitor subtle variations in grey matter myelination across populations. In Leipzig Metere (ESRB) developed new methods of measuring relaxation times and applied these in studies of dyslexia. Wu (ESRC) worked in Oxford to develop new and accelerated methods of measuring diffusion at UHF. These parameters are considered essential metrics of tissue microstructure in neuroscience and increasingly in clinical medicine.

MR is also very sensitive to tissue function and at Leipzig and Donders Guidi and Markuerkiaga (ESRD and E) used the sensitivity of 7T MRI to develop high resolution methods of measuring brain function and changes in blood volume across the layers of the grey matter in the brain. In Pisa Rua (ESRG) characterized and optimized fMRI at 7T to study the human visual system during sensory stimulation, and demonstrated applications targeting the ventral temporal and occipital areas involved in face perception At Oxford Viessmann (ESRF) studied small vessel disease including changes in the vessel walls in small vessel disease.

MRI provides the possibility of studying a range of chemical species in vivo via MR spectroscopy and chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST). AT Utrecht Khlebnikov (ESRH) undertook studies using improved CEST methods in studies of brain tumours, and also undertook basic methods to study the origins of various CEST phenomena in the brain. The increased sensitivity of ultrahigh field opens up the possibility of performing MR experiments on other elements than just hydrogen, and Fernandes (ESRI) working at Nottingham has developed methods for performing 13C as well as further methods for proton spectroscopy. This work is now being applied in studies of mental illness.

RF coils are central to the MRI scanner, and at Essen Cai (ESRJ) has undertaken a programme of work developing new coils in collaboration with the SME Rapid. At Utrecht Restivo (ESRK) undertook fundamental work on predicting peak RF power deposition in tissue and importantly how this would be affected by the presence of tumours.

Motion is a major problem for MRI, and in particular it limits our ability to exploit the potential high resolution provided by the increased sensitivity available at high field. Sciarra (ESRL) working at Magdeburg has undertaken a programme of work aimed at improving the effective spatial resolution of MRI scans by developing methods relevant to both prospective and retrospective motion correction.

Safety is key in medical imaging and the HiMR network has made vital contributions in this area through the work of Fatahi at Magdeburg (ESRM) who has performed an extensive and coherent body of work studying any possible long term effects of exposure to the EMFs involved in MRI. Importantly she found no evidence that such exposures cause damage to DNA. She also evaluated the level of exposure of workers to high magnetic fields around high field MRI scanners and investigated workers’ subjective perception of safety which is important to understand if we are to ensure rapid take up of methods.

In summary, this project has pushed the boundaries of UHF MRI across all major fronts, working collaboratively across groups and with our industrial partners. The ESRs have contributed new methods and technical developments to the field and have applied their techniques in ground breaking studies in neuroscience and medicine.

Finally, as PI I would like to make a personal statement. I am very grateful to the Marie Curie Action for giving me the opportunity to take part in this network, I have personally benefitted considerably from the new links that I have made, both scientifically and managerially through my exposure to different ways of working in the different cultures around the EU.
Penny Gowland
Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre
University of Nottingham NG7 2RD