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Towards more accurate neuroimaging

Aalto University was one of the organisers of a ultra-high MRI themed workshop.
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Aalto University’s Aalto Brain Centre (ABC), Aalto NeuroImaging (ANI) –research infrastructure and the Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering (NBE) arranged together with Finnish Infrastructres for Functional Imaging (FIFI) a symposium with the theme ultra-high MRI. The workshop kicked off the project of getting a 7 tesla magnetig resonance (MR) scanner to Finland.

– The workshop helped to launch the project in getting an ultra-high field MR scanner to Finland. It will not be cheap, so we need to see that all national actors work together towards a common goal, says Dr. Toni Auranen from Aalto NeuroImaging.

Toni Auranen, one of the organisers, is content with the outcome of the workshop.

The speakers at the workshop are all experts and pioneers in the field. The participants, potential users of the future scanner, came from all over Finland. Together they pondered over the benefits and new features of ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and functional MRI (fMRI).

The images produced with a 7T-scanner are very accurate and, thus, researchers are able to study anatomical structures with sub-millimeter resolution. Prior to ultra-high field MR scanners it was only possible to study these structures after a person’s death.

– Furthermore, ultra-high field MRI makes it possible to explore cortical functioning within its layers. The spatial resolution as well as signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio are improved dramatically making the method superior to MRI at lower field strengths. For example, there is no need to smooth the results which reduces the amount of false-negative and false-positive type of errors..

– One can easily say that 7T is a game-changer in the field of neuroscience.

An expert panel was also arranged during the workshop. The panel was unanimous: Finland needs a high field MRI if the country wants to study the most intriguing and recent advances in human neuroscience. 

– We need the machine for basic research with volunteers and clinical research with specific study groups. Later, when (or if) the machine is approved for clinical diagnostic work with patients, perhaps in 5-10 years’ time, Finland needs another one that would also be used for daily diagnostic work at hospital..

An ideal location for the first scanner would be in Otaniemi due to the high technical environment and focus on neuroscience. The second one after the 5-10 years “piloting phase” in Finland, would be placed where the patients can be found, in a central hospital, for example.

The organisers are now doing a summary and report of what we learned at the workshop. The report will be sent to all the participants and potential users before the end of the year with a suggestion how to advance with the 7T-project in Finland.

–The goal is to get the scanner to Aalto with full open-access principle, i.e. everyone can use it with the same requirements and rights, those who have funded it perhaps for a cheaper price.

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