Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have been awarded a $13.4 million grant after developing a new functional magnetic resonance imaging system with 20 times the resolution of traditional fMRI machines, according to a new report.
The $13.4 million comes from the National Institute of Health’s BRAIN initiative grant, and will help researchers develop the NexGen 7T fMRI machine by 2019, according to the report.
The resolution of the device would allow the machine to focus down to a region the size of a poppy seed, researchers said, which would allow imaging of neuron clusters involved in the same type of processing.
“Our innovation in MRI technology requires a total redesign of nearly all of the scanner components, not just an incremental change. The much higher resolution imaging will overcome size barriers in imaging the cortex and should lead to new discoveries in the human brain, hopefully with major medical impact,” lead researcher and UC Berkeley advanced MRI technologies prez David Feinberg said in a press release.
The new technology would allow researchers to examine the cerebral cortex, which is composed of microcircuits in columns of neurons only 0.4 millimeters apart, something existing fMRI technology is not able to do.
“This is a revolutionary advance. It would bring the studies of human brain function and circuitry to the finest scale by peering into the fundamental cortical microcircuit and, thus, make it possible to relate non-invasive analysis of human brain function to invasive animal studies of cells and local circuits in a way never possible before,” Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute director Ehud Isacoff said in a prepared statement.
The new system will allow neuroscientists to focus on the cortical layers of the brain where most neuronal circuitry resides and to better identify large-scale circuitry connections different regions of the brain, according to the report.
“The outcome of this ultra-high-resolution fMRI will be the most advanced view yet of how properties of the mind, such as perception, memory and consciousness, emerge from brain operations,” Feinberg said. “The ability to observe disturbances in brain structures and functions will radically advance the diagnosis and understanding of neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.”
As part of the research, the group at UC Berkeley will collaborate with Siemens (NYSE:SI) to build components for the new fMRI system and insure design can be ramped up to produce the devices on a global scale.
“This is a novel kind of partnership that will enable an unprecedented dissemination of knowledge and innovation to the research community,” Isacoff said.