UC Berkeley to use $13.4M NIH grant to improve neuroimaging

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have lofty goals. They want to use a $13.43 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve functional MRI techniques to improve resolution in imaging by a factor of 20.

UC Berkeleys hopes to build a NexGen 7T MR scanner by 2019 to provide the high-resolution images of the brain, able to focus on a region the size of a poppy seed.

“Our innovation in MRI technology requires a total redesign of nearly all of the scanner components, not just an incremental change,” said David Feinberg, an adjunct professor in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley and president of Advanced MRI Technologies, in a statement. “The much higher resolution imaging will overcome size barriers in imaging the cortex and should lead to new discoveries in the human brain, hopefully with major medical impact.”

The researcher will be using the fMRI to pinpoint activity in neurons, specifically in the cerebral cortex. Microcircuits in the brain form small columns, which can be observed via the high-resolution fMRI. Researchers will more easily connect these columns with studies of the activity of individual neurons.