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UI Gets Giant MRI Scanner

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - Some new technology at the University of Iowa may help change the future of brain science in a big way -- 42 tons worth.

The university wheeled in a 7 Tesla Whole Body Scanner to the new Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building on Thursday afternoon, making it one of just 40 research institutions in the world with the magnetic device.

"I feel like a kid in a candy shop. It's a really great opportunity," said professor of psychiatry Peggy Nopoulos, M.D.

The project started five years ago, when associate professor Vincent Magnotta spearheaded the writing of an $8 million NIH grant to fund the scanner.

"It's like your birthday, right? You're just really excited to have it here," Magnotta said.

The 7 Tesla scanner is 2.5 times more powerful than the MRI scanner that UI currently uses, and that increased power has the opportunity to change the things that researchers can see.

"It's a whole new level in which we can study the brain and other parts of the body that we couldn't before," Magnotta said.

"When we're doing a memory activity, where in the brain are the neurons, the cells that work, where are they functioning?" Nopoulos said. "It's a way to really envision the living brain and study it."

That could mean new answers for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's, as well as clues to how the developing brain works.

"We'll be able to start collecting data and answer questions we couldn't answer before," Magnotta said.

That means opening up chances for even more grant money, more connections to other universities, and more chances at a healthier future.

The scanner can also be used for other biological research, including orthopedic studies.

Magnotta hopes to start a blog about the magnet. 
 
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