Penn State receives MRI for Social & Life Sciences Imaging Center

University Park, Pa. -- A giant magnet, recently delivered to campus, will become the core of the new Human MRI Facility when the Siemens Magnetom Trio 3T -- a 3-Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine -- is installed in Chandlee Laboratory on the University Park campus.

The machine is the latest in clinical human MRI technology and joins the Penn State Bioengineering and Huck Institutes Magnetic Resonance Center that has animal-sized MRIs and the Human Electrophysiology Facility (HEF) -- a laboratory to do electroencephalography -- to form the Social and Life Sciences Imaging Center (SLIC).

SLIC will collaborate with the Center for NMR Research at Penn State College of Medicine that now has a machine twin to the one being installed in Chandlee.

"We are very excited by the installation of the human MRI as a centerpiece for the Social and Life Sciences Imaging Center," said Eva Pell, senior vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School. "This facility will allow our life and social sciences to work together with our bioengineers to unlock some of the mysteries of human behavior."

The Siemens Magnetom Trio 3T is a full body MRI that has an interior diameter of just under two feet. The magnet and table assembly are 8.5 feet high, 8.1 feet wide and 15.5 feet long. The magnet weighs about 25,353 pounds or about 12.6 tons.

"The new MRI and the establishment of the SLIC open up opportunities for social and behavioral scientists at Penn State," said Susan McHale, director of the Social Science Research Institute and the Children, Youth and Families Consortium. "Foremost among those are new collaborations with researchers in the life sciences, engineering and medicine. And these kinds of multi-disciplinary collaborations are what we need to tackle the complexities of human behavior, health and development."

Special coils to image the head, neck, spine, knee and shoulder will make imaging of specific body parts easier. SLIC will also have a mock MRI to acclimate subjects to the machine, test configurations and train personnel.

"This is an exciting watershed event for both the life sciences and social sciences," said Peter Hudson, director of the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences and the Willaman professor of biology. "With this new instrument we launch a new integrated imaging center, which will provide the foundation for some truly interdisciplinary science on brain development and cognition. But this is just the start; we intend to grow from here with improved facilities and opportunities for social and life scientists to work even closer."

The staff includes Anna Engels, SLIC assistant director; Susan Lemieux, the physicist in charge of the human magnet; Thomas Neuberger, interim director of the Bioengineering and Huck Institutes Magnetic Resonance Center; and Michael Wenger, who is in charge of the HEF. SLIC will be hiring a magnetic resonance technologist to round out the facility. The new machine is expected to be installed by February 2009.

Rick O. Gilmore, associate professor of psychology, is chair of the steering committee overseeing SLIC. Collaborators in the launch of SLIC are the Colleges of Health and Human Development, the Liberal Arts and Engineering; Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences; Children, Youth and Families Consortium; Social Sciences Research Institute; Office of the Senior Vice President for Research; and the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010