New MRI Scanner Will Increase Researchers’ Impact and Help Hospital Compete for Grants

April 19, 2016

The arrival of a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner for the McLean Imaging Center (MIC) last week will help investigators significantly expand their research scope, provide a more comfortable experience for patients, and position the hospital to better compete for grants and other funding.

The acquisition of the Siemens Prisma 3T MRI scanner was made possible by a $3.75 million grant from the Manton Foundation, which was awarded to McLean in the fall of 2015.

Scott E. Lukas, PhD, director of the MIC, director of the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory, said that he and Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD, director of the MIC, director of the Laboratory for Translational and Affective Neuroscience, and director of the Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research, would like to publicly thank Sue DeMarco, of McLean’s Development Office, for identifying the opportunity with the Manton Foundation.

“Sue’s tenacity, dedication, and talent are to be commended. We are greatly appreciative of her work ethic and devotion to the work she does for the hospital,” explained Lukas.

McLean’s new Siemens Prisma 3T MRI scanner

According to Pizzagalli, the new MRI is among the most sophisticated, state of the art, 3T magnets available, explaining that the Prisma’s electronics are superior to a standard 3T, allowing researchers to achieve greatly improved image quality.

“There are also many software applications available, and because of the sophisticated electronics, some of the acquisitions that we’ll be performing might now take only 25 minutes instead of 40. If we can reduce the time that certain sequences take and still get more data, or even higher quality data, then that’s a win-win for everybody,” noted Lukas.

Pizzagalli pointed out that the steady growth of brain imaging research and clinical needs at McLean over the past years resulted in the need for a new, sophisticated scanner.

“In the last decade, the use of brain imaging for diagnostics, as well as for research has grown exponentially,” said Pizzagalli. “In order to continue to meet the needs of the McLean community, as well as others, we needed to provide another state of the art option for imaging.”

Both Lukas and Pizzagalli pointed out that the MIC also supports research by investigators from other institutions including Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston University Medical Center, Harvard University, and Suffolk University. “We have very sophisticated research protocols and an outstanding team of support people who make sure the magnets perform at optimal levels, which is why our offsite collaborators choose to scan here,” said Lukas.

Through the Prisma, McLean will also be able to collect data that are compatible with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Connectome Project, which provides researchers with well-characterized imaging data from 1,200 healthy controls. “This is unique,” said Lukas, “because now we have access to a healthy, matched-control population, so our efforts and resources can be focused on recruiting and studying patient populations. We will have automatic access to healthy controls.”

“This capability,” he added, “will position us to better compete for NIH-specific grant applications, as well as for funding from other foundations and organizations,” said Lukas. “With the purchase of the Prisma,” said Lukas, “we can move into the next generation of research.”

Key Features of the New Siemens MAGNETOM Prisma 3T MRI

  • The Prisma boasts a powerful 3T magnet with superior gradients that help maintain a stable magnetic field.
  • The software technology offers the ability to zoom into specific body and brain regions for enhanced image quality.
  • The integrated high-density coil technology allows for the most flexible imaging and complex examinations to be performed.
  • The Prisma is also the standard platform for collecting data that is compatible with NIH’s Human Connectome Project, allowing researchers to now participate in new ventures that study diseases in a systematic manner.
  • The design of the magnet provides for zero helium boil off, which makes it more environmentally friendly since helium is becoming very rare.
  • The combination of superior electronics, well-developed and creative software, and enhanced magnet design allows faster image acquisitions at higher spatial and temporal resolution that remain stable for even the longest scanning sessions.
  • The duration of some examination sessions can be reduced by up to 20% and because of automated setup programs, interactions with software is reduced by up to 45%.

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