World First: Most Detailed Scan of the Brain's Internal Wiring Produced

“Prof Derek Jones, CUBRIC's director, likened this significant development to looking through the Hubble telescope after you had been using binoculars.”

Cardiff University's Brain Research Imaging Centre and Siemens engineers have developed the world’s most complete and detailed mapping of the brain’s internal wiring using technology linked to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.

The primary technology used was the 7 Tesla Scanner (Siemens), named poignantly after the scanner’s own stupendous 7T field strength. To put the field strength of the 7 Tesla Scanner in perspective, a 7T field strength is 140,000 times stronger that the magnetic field of planet Earth itself. However, the extraordinary images produced by CUBRIC used the Siemens 3 Tesla Connectom System, one of only three in the world. This advanced system features 300 mT/m gradient coils which are typically 6 times stronger than those found in conventional MRI systems, allowing for images with finer detail.

The Siemens 3 Tesla Connectom System uses it’s incredible magnetic field in conjunction with a special radio antenna, that ‘listens’ to the electrical signals produced by the hydrogen nuclei of molecules in the body. Using this technology, the scanner is able to show the axons in the brain that carry billions of electrical impulses as well as the direction of the messaging.

The significance of this brain scan lies in it’s ability to show axonal density, which can help to explain how lesions affect the motor and cognitive pathways, and thus significantly aid the primary aim of this research; to generate momentous developments in the understanding of neurological disorders.  

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