July 20, 2024

SACLAY: The world’s most powerful MRI scanner has delivered its first images of human brains, achieving a new level of precision that we hope will shed more light on our mysterious minds – and the diseases that plague them.

Researchers at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) first used the device in 2021 to scan a pumpkin. But health authorities recently gave them the green light to scan people.

In recent months, around 20 healthy volunteers have become the first to enter the maw of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, located in the Plateau de Saclay south of Paris, home to many technology companies and universities.

“We have seen a level of precision at CEA that has never been achieved before,” said Alexandre Vignaud, a physicist working on the project. The magnetic field generated by the scanner is a whopping 11.7 Tesla, a unit of measurement named after inventor Nikola Tesla.

This performance allows the device to scan images with ten times greater precision than the MRIs commonly used in hospitals, whose power typically does not exceed three Tesla. On a computer screen, Vignaud compared the images taken by this powerful scanner, called Iseult, with those from a regular MRI.

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