The human brain…

Scientists are very careful about claiming that no one else has ever done something before — the last thing they need is some overlooked lab saying, um, right here! — but researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital are confident they’re on solid ground. Their high-resolution MRIs of a complete, intact human brain, they say, are “unprecedented.

Other labs have sliced up brains and seen features down to 80 or even 50 microns. (One micron is a 10,000th of a centimeter, and 75 of them is about the width of a human hair.) The MGH team got 100-micron resolution in a whole brain, producing the most detailed three-dimensional images of an intact brain ever seen.

Super high res brain
Detailed anatomy of brainstem structures, including (at far right) the inferior olivary nucleus, which coordinates movement.

The scientists started with an MRI machine with a 7-tesla magnet, a significantly stronger magnetic field than the 0.5-to-3 teslas of most MRIs in clinical use, which optimized the signal-to-noise ratio. But they also built custom state-of-the-art software that, depending which physics parameters it directs the MRI to optimize, reveals particular features of the tissue, from tiny bleeds to swelling to white and gray matter.

It didn’t hurt that the brain — from a 58-year-old woman who bequeathed it to science before her death from viral pneumonia three years ago — could stay in the MRI for 100 hours and was perfectly immobile.

Super high res brain
Detailed anatomy of the basal ganglia and midbrain (center) and cerebellum (left).

The researchers, led by MGH’s Dr. Brian Edlow, described their work in a papersubmitted to a journal, and while they await publication, they have shared the images, which were taken at four different

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  • Wow I recently had two mris and need an other. I am quite capable of understanding what it mean if only my Dr would rescue the MRI with me. Up date me with more info please.

  • Gotta love the guys who made freesurfer, one of the most well-known and used MRI software suites.
    Of course they’d keep one-upping all of us lol

  • Would using this 7 Tesla magnet obviate the need for “Gad” or Gadolinium dye which is now suspected to be deposited permanently thereby inviting some lawsuit like that from Chuck Norris’ wife ?
    Is the more side effects with stronger magnets ?

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