NeuRA Imaging Centre


The NeuRA Imaging Centre houses a 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. This scanner allows researchers to measure brain structure and function, as well as connectivities and chemistry in a non-invasive manner. In April 2007, the original Philips scanner was replaced with the latest model, the “Achieva”, having larger field gradients and a second radiofrequency channel. This enabled researchers to undertake a more extensive range of exciting new experiments, including 31P (brain bioenergetics) and 13C (brain metabolism) experiments, and to obtain higher angular resolution in their images.

During 2007, research using the scanner was expanded. A grant from the NSW Cancer Council allowed the Imaging Centre to purchase additional equipment to image smaller items. In addition, the facility joined the Australian National Imaging Facility, becoming part of a nationwide network that includes imaging facilities in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. From this National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) scheme, NeuRA Imaging was able to employ a Facilitation Fellow, Dr Michael Green, from 2008 to assist researchers who wish to access the facility under the National Imaging Facility.

Following a successful ARC Linkage Infrastructure and Equipment Fund (LIEF) application, the system was upgraded to Achieva TX in 2010. This system has multi-transmit technology as well as 32 receiver channels. A next generation 32 channel head coil was also purchased as part of this ARC grant. More than 90 projects are currently approved to use the facility.

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Caress the Detail: A Comprehensive MRI Atlas of the in Vivo Human Brain

This project aims to deliver the most comprehensive, detailed and stereotaxically accurate MRI atlas of the canonical human brain. In human neuroscience, researchers and clinicians almost always investigate images obtained from living individuals. Yet, there is no satisfactory MRI atlas of the human brain in vivo or post-mortem. There are some population-based atlases, which valiantly solve a number of problems, but they fail to address major needs. Most problematically, they segment only a small number of brain structures, typically about 50, and they are of limited value for the interpretation of a single subject/patient. In contrast to population-based approaches, the present project will investigate normal, living subjects in detail. We aim to define approximately 800 structures, as in the histological atlas of Mai, Majtanik and Paxinos (2016), and, thus, provide a “gold standard” for science and clinical practice. We will do this by obtaining high-resolution MRI at 3T and 7T of twelve subjects through a collaboration with Markus Barth from the Centre for Advanced Imaging at the University of Queensland (UQ). The limited number of subjects will allow us to image each for longer periods, obtaining higher resolution and contrast, and to invest the required time to produce unprecedented detail in segmentation. We will produce an electronic atlas for interpreting MR images, both as a tablet application and as an online web service. The tablet application will provide a convenient and powerful exegesis of brain anatomy for researchers and clinicians. The open access web service will additionally provide images, segmentation and anatomical templates to be used with most common MR-analysis packages (e.g., SPM, FSL, MINC, BrainVoyager). This will be hosted in collaboration with UQ, supporting and complementing their population-based atlas.