Innovation and Research

One in three Canadians will face a psychiatric disease, neurological disorder or brain injury at some point in their lives. There are excellent treatments available for these conditions, but no known cures.

The yearly impact of brain disorders on the Canadian economy stands at $22 billion in direct costs. Triple that for ongoing costs of living. These figures are not going to get better on their own: the incidence of dementia is expected to double in the next 20 years as our population ages.

The University of Alberta Hospital’s Peter S. Allen MR Research Centre is uniquely situated for finding answers to the big questions about the brain. Adding a new, state-of-the-art 3T MRI will literally make those answers easier to find.

What is Brain Research?

Brain research is about understanding what’s happening in the brain and the diseases that afflict it. It’s comparing healthy and unhealthy brains. Taking measurements. Looking for clues that reveal how problems developed. And how to solve them.

To do this, researchers need access to patients. The easier the access, the more research they can do. The more data they collect. The closer to answers they become.

Direct, same-building access to patients has helped establish the Peter S. Allen MR Research Centre as a top-tier clinical research program. The expertise of the biomedical engineering team at the MR research facility is unparalleled. The team is known for pushing the envelope in MR imaging and developing new MR methods for use in human research and clinical diagnosis.

What role does the 3T MRI play?

“There is no better way of telling what’s going on inside your head than taking a picture of it,” says Dr. Christian Beaulieu, Scientific Director of the Peter S. Allen MR Research Centre. ”And images taken with a 3T MRI are a different quality than a 1.5T. The detailing is better. The images are clearer. You can literally see more of the brain.”

Typical applications for the 3T MRI in research include:

  • Neurology, including ALS, dementia, Parkinson's, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke
  • Psychiatry, including depression and anxiety disorders, post-partum depression, social phobia, schizophrenia, addictions
  • Rehabilitation medicine, including spinal cord injury, stroke recovery

The research 3T system would be used for research studies and clinical trials, which tend to take longer to complete than clinical imaging, and would not interfere with immediate patient needs for an MRI.

Another key point about the MR research facility is that it is the MR systems themselves that require revitalization; the facility itself is very well-equipped with a computer lab, patient preparation room, wet lab, and RF coil lab.

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