The new facility adds two Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging magnet units (fMRI) to the CCBN’s expanding abilities to study the brain. The U of L / CCBN magnets will be among the most powerful in the province for research purposes.
Both are research magnets, configured for the head and limbs (hands, feet, legs, etc), not the entire human body. One unit will be used for small animal research, and the other will be used for human subject research.
The small animal magnet unit will be operational in the fall of 2006; the large magnet unit for human subject research is expected to be operational in early 2007.
Examples of the types of research conducted with the MRI units could include:
- Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), which detects chemicals (or chemical imbalances) in the living brain
- Functional MRI (fMRI), which looks at blood flow and oxygenation changes to support brain activity and could detect changes in the brain following a stroke or other brain injuries.
- As well, operators of the MRI units will be designing specialized hardware and writing software programs to speed up the scanning process.
Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience website:
How powerful are these MRI Units?
The U of L / CCBN magnets will be among the most powerful in the province for research purposes. The power of the magnets is measured in units named for inventor Nikola Tesla, who pioneered the use of alternating current electrical power.
One magnet is a 4.7Tesla (requires higher resolution for small animals); the other is a 3Tesla for human subject research. There are two other 3T MRIs in the province (one in Calgary, one in Edmonton) as well as a 4.7T human scanner in Edmonton.
Where did the magnets come from?
The 3Tesla magnet came from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. The 4.7Tesla magnet came from the University of California in San Francisco and its Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
The magnet units were obtained as ‘gently used’ items from these facilities when they upgraded their equipment, so were purchased at a fraction of the cost of new equipment. The University of Lethbridge invested in a specially-built facility to house the magnets and the supporting equipment as well as research and technical personnel to operate the facility.
What will the facility cost?
$3.25 million dollars (estimate)
- Construction costs: Approximately $2.8 million
- Both MRI systems, used: $100K (New cost = $3-4 million)
- Installation: $350K
- The building was designed for these magnets, with the structural steel positioned so that it would not affect the magnets’ operation.
- The magnets sit on a vibrationally-isolated 4 ft thick concrete slab to separate the steel rebar from the magnets.
- The magnets are housed in a 6-sided copper room (copper in the floor and ceiling). All wires (including light, sprinklers etc) have to go through filters or wave guides so that the local FM radio stations do not interfere with measurements.
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