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Georgia State/Georgia Tech Center for Advanced Brain Imaging to expand brain, mind research

3/30/2009 – Jeremy Craig, University Relations; David Terraso, Communications and Marketing, Georgia Institute of Technology

ATLANTA – Georgia State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology are opening a new center that will provide researchers around Atlanta with a dedicated magnetic resonance imaging scanner to further study into the mysteries of the brain and mind.

The Center for Advanced Brain Imaging, a joint venture of Georgia State and Georgia Tech, opened this month for researchers exploring topics from autism and learning disabilities, to applied physiology, brain signals and brain-computer interfaces.

“We are excited to open a facility which will provide researchers exploring the mind with a dedicated, around-the-clock center to advance research in some of the most fascinating and challenging areas of neuroscience,” said Robin Morris, vice president of research at Georgia State. “This is yet another example of how the University System of Georgia has encouraged partnerships between institutions, which yield great gains in scientific advancement.”

The center, a facility that has been more than a decade in the making, will provide a huge boost to the study of neuroscience on both campuses, Randall Engle, professor of psychology at Georgia Tech and interim director of the Center for Advanced Brain Imaging.

“It will bring people together from a broad range of disciplines to study how the brain works, how the brain creates the mind, and to better understand disorders and disabilities emanating from the brain,” Engle said.

The Marietta Street center provides both institutions with a research-dedicated functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner (fMRI). Scans from fMRIs tell researchers about active areas of the brain while the person is performing certain cognitive or behavioral functions, which shed further light on the brain.

Researchers at both institutions often had to vie for time at clinical MRIs based at hospitals, but the CABI’s scanner is solely dedicated to academic research, giving researchers a wider opportunity to perform their experiments.

The $2.3 million fMRI scanner, funded by the Georgia State University Research Foundation, Georgia Tech Research Institute, and the Georgia Research Alliance through the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, is housed in a 6,000 square-foot facility with a 6-inch thick floor to hold the massive equipment. The machine’s magnetic power is rated at 3 Tesla — a unit measuring the strength of a magnetic field — which provides the power to observe details of electrical impulses and pathways in the brain. The MRI scanner is twice as powerful as conventional MRI scanners operating at 1.5 Tesla, and 60,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field.

The machine will run 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week to accommodate not only researchers from Georgia State and Georgia Tech, but researchers from other institutions who wish to use it.

The CABI also includes facilities for transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, which is a strong magnet that applies bursts to the outside of the head to temporarily disrupt a portion of the brain, giving researchers a way to study the roles of different brain regions.