Cornell Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility (CMRIF)
The meeting room is the first space researchers and subjects see when they enter the Cornell MRI facility. The area has a computer, large conference table, white board, and television. The television and computer have video conferencing software, enabling researchers to discuss and collaborate at top efficiency. Facility users can examine results, discuss the next steps in their research, or give a small group presentation in this area.
Subjects receive briefings on what they will do while in the MRI scanner and fill out consent forms. The room has a mock MRI scanner, where subjects can acclimate to the experience. This is especially useful for children who may be nervous about being inside the MRI machine. A table set up with a fake coil, monitor, and mirror give subjects a chance to experience what it is like to be inside a scanner. There is even a mock recording of the scanner noise.
The data processing room is home to Suyash Bhogawar, a neuro-informatics programmer and analyst for the MRI facility. Functional MRI datasets are very large and complex. Bhogawar assists researchers with processing and retrieving data from their studies. He also creates templates for data quality processing that benefit all researchers who use the facility.
CMRIF provides an animal preparation room, designed specifically to prepare animals for the noninvasive MRI scan. Although some dogs are trained to be still, most animals, like mice, receive anesthesia prior to entering the scanner. In order to monitor vital signs, animals may also need shaving.
The scanner console is where MRI Technologist Roy Scott Proper monitors and controls activity and feedback during a scan. Researchers can create an exam and prescribe the type of scan that needs to be performed. The room functions as the initial image database.
The scanner console is in an area labeled Zone III due to its proximity to the MRI scanner. Because of the scanner’s large magnet, people cannot enter Zone III if they have pacemakers or metal implants.
The MRI scanner, a GE Discovery MR750 3.0T, is a state-of-the-art commercial scanner. The machine works by sending radio frequency energy via a powerful magnet to excite protons in water, which are abundant in biological tissue. The excitation causes the nucleus of the proton to flip and, therefore, release energy. Coils, with 32 built-in channels, surround the subject and receive signals from the proton’s energy. In order to generate an image, the gradient coils inside the scanner’s cover create a linear relationship between the resonance frequency and location of the signal. The machine is then able to encode specific locales of a signal on an X-Y-Z axis, based on the frequency of the signal. That information is sent back to the console, where software translates the data into an image.
Researchers and MRI technicians can customize how the signals are translated in order to develop new types of images, including anatomical, functional, diffusion, or vasculature.
In the first federal funded project using the MRI facility, Valerie Reyna, Human Development, investigates “The Gist of Hot and Cold Cognition in Adolescents’ Risky Decision Making.”
R. Nathan Spreng, Human Development, who is applying innovative approaches to connectivity analyses, uses the magnet to study how the brain changes with age.
Click here for more specifics on the MRI Scanner.
Because of the powerful magnet running in the MRI scanner, many peripherals need to be made compatible with the MRI environment. The scanner has a mirror positioned above the subject that reflects a television monitor for visual stimuli, headphones for auditory stimuli, response boxes for answering questions, and an eye-tracking camera to collect data on subject’s eye movements. All of the equipment must be filtered through a research panel that prevents the magnetic resonance from penetrating back into the MRI control room.
Peripheral equipment also includes a scent release device. This custom-made apparatus is part of a research project in Adam Anderson’s lab, Human Development. Vials contain various types of smells, ranging from pleasant to putrid. While a subject is inside the MRI scanner, she wears a nasal cannula attached to the various scents. The study looks at how emotions and memory become attached to smell.
John Hale, Linguistics, in a recent study took functional MRI images while subjects listened with headphones to the first chapter of Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland. Results from this study reveal that a region of the temporal lobe is involved when listening to difficult grammatical structure in language comprehension.
The Cornell Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility (CMRIF) has a state-of-the-art MRI scanner and expert staff, supporting research in fields ranging from neuroscience to linguistics to human development.
MRI technology provides noninvasive imaging of humans, animals, plants, and biomedical materials. Although traditionally used as a clinical diagnostic tool in hospitals, MRI scanners have become important to research, especially in the behavioral and social sciences. “Scholars from across Cornell’s colleges are using MRI to understand how people perceive, feel, remember, imagine, and decide,” says Valerie Reyna, codirector of the facility and director of the Human Neuroscience Institute. A flexible tool, the magnet can be used to study anything with water in it, including the living brain. “We are developing new techniques for maximizing the power of MRI to detect dynamic properties of the brain,” says CMRIF Technical Director Wenming Luh. “These techniques make it possible to understand how brain systems connect to one another to produce behavior from childhood to old age.”
CMRIF, established in 2013, garners support from the Office of the Vice Provost and the Colleges of Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and Engineering.