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Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI)

Dr. James Brewer and colleagues are conducting research to measure the size of different regions in the brain, and the strength of connections between these areas.  This research uses advanced ways of analyzing MRI signals.

What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive procedure that allows us to look inside the brain, without exposing patients to radioactivity, unlike many other imaging methods.  MRI is an advanced medical technique that uses a powerful magnet, radio waves, antenna, and a computer to produce detailed images of brain structure from different angles. This safe, painless procedure can reveal tumors, strokes, and atrophy (or shrinkage) in particular parts of the brain. In addition to providing pictures of brain structure, some specialized MRI scans provide pictures of the brain chemistry (MR spectroscopy) and brain function (functional MRI). Volumetric MRI (vMRI) scans enable researchers to give special attention to certain regions and structures within the brain that are known to be important in memory formation and retention.  Persons can be compared with themselves over time, or with others in various diagnostic groups which can be helpful in reaching an accurate diagnosis (important for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative dementias) and better understand what changes are occurring in these specific brain regions.  However, because of the large magnet, persons with metallic implants, such as pacemakers or cochlear implants are not able to undergo a MRI scan.

Why am I being asked to undergo an MRI?

MRI is mostly used to distinguish normal tissue from pathologic tissue, for example, in ruling out the presence of a stroke, tumor, or bleed.  However, such uses of MRI vastly underestimate its power.  In fact, the resolution of modern MR technology is so high that the entire brain can be reconstructed digitally within sub-millimeter accuracy.  We can analyze this image of the brain with exquisite detail and take advantage of automated computer software to make calculations about the brain’s structure and function.  Research suggests that the ability to monitor how the brain actively changes as it ages is one of the most powerful tools in predicting whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease.  We hope to significantly impact the clinical approach to Alzheimer’s by allowing physicians to identify individuals at risk, detect the disease in its earliest stages, and monitor the success of treatments.

What will I experience?

You will be asked to remove all metal objects from your body before entering the scan room.  You will lie down on a cushioned table that will be moved into the magnet after you have been comfortably positioned for scanning.  The MR technologist will leave the magnet room but you will be in constant contact with him or her throughout the exam.  When the MR scan begins, you will hear a muffled thumping sound, which will last for the duration of the MRI.  Other than sound, you should experience no other sensation during scanning.  Try to relax during your MRI; it will last approximately 35 minutes.


When will the scan be performed and how do I set up the appointment?

A member of our ADRC staff will contact you to set up your MRI scan appointment with  UCSD Radiology.  At that time, they will provide you with specific instructions and address logistical questions or concerns that you may have regarding the scan.

Where will it be done?

UCSD Radiology in La Jolla will be performing the MRI scan and transmitting the data to the ADRC for analysis. 

Click here to view an MRI pamphlet by the ADCS.

Click here to access a variety of imaging information from the radiologyinfo.org web page.