The University of Alabama opened a new $10 million, 9,700-square-foot MRI research facility in addition to the University Medical Center. The move is a major step forward in promoting the university’s ability to conduct research across many disciplines.
At the heart of the University Medical Center complex on Fifth and Fourth Avenues is a state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging machine. This unit has approximately twice the output of MRIs commonly used in clinical settings.
“It has a high magnetic field strength and is the most widely used type of MRI for research in the world,” said Charlene Newman, executive director of the Alabama Life Institute.
The unit has a 3 Tesla rating, which is a number that describes the strength of the magnetic field the machine produces. A 3-Tesla machine can run faster at the same resolution as a 1.5-Tesla machine, producing higher-resolution images with less interference, allowing researchers to see more detail.
“Most research will be focused on neuroscience, at least initially. Most of us with MRI scanners today study the brain. From educational neuroscience to substance abuse to autism. , aging and dementia,” Newman said.
The university is also adding a new undergraduate major in neuroscience, Newman said.
The new MRI facility is also opening the door to the study of people in West Alabama. This is a portion of the population that has not been extensively studied, Newman said. She said children in West Alabama face many developmental problems, from lead paint poisoning to environmental stressors. would like to better understand the challenges of
“We are sitting in the ‘stroke belt.’ I think.
Rajesh Kana, director of the neuroscience team at the Alabama Life Institute, said the machine could be used in innovative ways to help researchers understand the brain.
“You can see the structure of the brain. You can see how different parts of the brain are organized, you can see the cable connections in the brain. You can also see how the brain responds to tasks.” You can also look at it: when you read a math problem or passage, or watch it move, you can see which parts of the brain respond or don’t respond,” Kana said.
The new MRI facility will also be part of a national network of 25 sites studying brain development in a program known as the Healthy Brain and Child Development Study. The program recruits pregnant women in their second trimester and helps them track their children through age 10 to find answers to questions about brain development.
Researcher Lea Yerby, associate professor in the Department of Community Medicine and Population Health, said: The child is having positive brain development, what helped the positive outcome?”
There are significant benefits for those participating in long-term studies. If any abnormalities are found during the scan, the family will be notified, Newman said, and the researchers will forward the information to health care providers so they can receive treatment.
While the university is focused on brain research, Neumann sees future clinical applications. The Alabama Life Institute is already working with sports medicine physicians who can use the facility for diagnostic work. MRI is a full-body scanner and is not limited to brain studies.
Russell Mamper, vice president for research and economic development at the University of Alabama, said the new MRI research facility will enhance UA’s reputation as a research university, a focus of the university’s growth and development in recent years.
“It took three years to create this facility. Proposals to build this facility came from six different colleges on campus,” Mumper said. “It really has two important roles. One is to facilitate important research. I had to go off-campus, now I can recruit faculty because of this facility, and the second reason is that several undergraduate and graduate degree programs benefit from this facility. That’s it.”
UA has spent about $10 million on the new facility, and Mumper said the investment is part of a larger strategy to boost the university’s research efforts. UA was designated R1 (Very High Doctoral Research University) by the Carnegie Foundation in 2018. Mumper said the new facility is a key factor in the growing research reputation the university is enjoying. A new facility was built with room for the addition of his second MRI machine in the future.
“In the last four years, we have doubled the size of our research company. We are certainly one of the fastest growing companies in the United States,” said Mumper.