Europe’s most powerful brain scanner arrives in Cardiff

Europe’s most powerful MRI scanner has arrived in Cardiff.

The specially adapted scanner, which offers scientists access to detailed images of the human brain, was craned into Cardiff University’s £44 million brain research imaging centre on Sunday Jan 17th.

The scanner has been made possible thanks to a £3 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and £1 million from the Wolfson Foundation. It’ll establish Cardiff as a national microstructural imaging facility.

Once the scanner is fully up and running, scientists working at the facility will have unprecedented access to images of micro structural make-up of tissue.

By using it, they’ll be able to better understand the individual differences of the brain and better understand developmental conditions like Alzheimer’s.

Professor Derek Jones, director of CUBRIC, said: “The arrival of this scanner is a significant landmark in the construction of our new £44M research centre and will put Cardiff University and Wales firmly on the world map for neuroimaging.

“To put the new scanner’s capability into some form of context, a strand of human hair ranges in diameter from 17 to 180 microns. This new scanner allows us to get information about the structure of tissue in the brain at the length of one thousandth of a millimetre or one micron.”

Talking more about the scanner, professor Jones added: “The best analogy is to think of a telescope.

“If you point a weakly-powered telescope at the sky, the signals from the stars that are close to each other merge into one so you just see a blur.

“However if you increase the power of the telescope, we can start to separate the signals from nearby objects and get a much better picture.

“This new scanner will allow us to establish a much better picture of the make-up of the brain. Ultimately we hope that this will help provide new targets for treatment and improved healthcare for people with mental illness.”

The new CUBRIC facility has received financial support from the likes of the Welsh Government and European Regional Development Fund, and will be officially opened later this year.