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Clearer scans and room to move

Researchers in Switzerland have developed a new approach to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that provides more uniform coverage over larger samples and offers greater comfort for patients. MRI is used widely to investigate the anatomy, physiology and metabolism of the human body.

To achieve these improvements, Klaas Pruessmann of the University of Zurich and colleagues modified the technique for exciting and detecting the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) signals of MRI machines. Their research is published in Nature this week.

Traditional MRI techniques rely on close proximity between the patient and detector to produce high-resolution images. Pruessmann and colleagues show that the nuclear magnetization signal used to create these images can be excited and detected over a longer range — using travelling radio-frequency waves. These waves can be guided by installing a specialized conductive lining in the machine. This allows both the source and the detector to be situated at the end of the magnet, and frees up space in the center of the machine.

With extra space, not only is a patient more comfortable, but equipment — such as stimulation devices for studies of brain function — can be added. The authors suggest that their new technique will also permit the design of experiments that were not possible previously.

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