A world premiere: the living brain imaged with unrivaled clarity thanks to the world's most powerful MRI machine – CEA – de la recherche à l'industrie

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Press release | Health & life sciences | Brain | Medical imaging | Neurodegenerative diseases | Cognition
​The CEA is revealing a series of in vivo human brain images acquired with the Iseult MRI machine and its unmatched 11.7 teslas magnetic field strength. This success is the fruit of more than 20 years of R&D as part of the Iseult project, with one pillar goal being to design and build the world’s most powerful MRI machine. Its ambition is to study healthy and diseased human brains with an unprecedented resolution, allowing us to discover new details relating to the brain’s anatomy, connections, and activity.
​Just about four  minutes. That’s all it took to acquire some of the most remarkable anatomical images of the brain from participants in the first study involving the Iseult MRI machine. The scanner, which uses magnetic resonance imaging technology, has a magnetic field intensity of 11.7 teslas, making it the most powerful in the world. The images have an impressive resolution for such a short acquisition time – 0.2 mm in-plane resolution and 1 mm slice thickness, which represents a volume equivalent to a few thousand neurons. For comparison, the same image quality would require hours with MRI scanners currently available in hospitals (1.5 or 3 teslas).  This is not realistic in practice as patients would not be comfortable and any movement would “blur” the image.
Axial view of the human brain 

Achieving such detailed resolutions will allow us to obtain previously unattainable  information about brain mechanisms, understand how our brain encodes our mental representations and find out what neuronal signatures are associated with the state of consciousness.
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The level of detail achieved with the Iseult MRI machine will have an impact on medical research. Firstly, the ultra-detailed anatomical information will support diagnostic and health care for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
11.7 teslas (T) of magnetic field (vs 1.5 and 3 T for conventional MRI machines in hospitals)  

Secondly, the Iseult MRI machine will facilitate the detection of some chemical species with weak signals that are hard to capture at lower magnetic fields, such as:

The project brought together more than 200 people from both the CEA and its industrial and academic partners:

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CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.

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