New partnership expands MRI services, research

SPOKANE — WSU Spokane and Spokane Advanced Imaging Institute (SAII) recently finalized an agreement providing WSU researchers access to the region’s first “functional imaging” magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system.

SAII opened the facility containing the 3.0 tesla MRI in May 2006.

A typical MRI system provides a picture of some part of the patient’s anatomy, e.g., a knee ligament or plaque deposits on the brain caused by multiple sclerosis.

A “functional image” MRI provides pictures of brain or body function. For example, while the patient is in the scanner, a technologist might present him or her with a sound or show the patient an image. The SAII’s system will then provide an image of the brain’s cognitive function, in real time.

Speaking of the opportunities provided by this technology, Dennis Dyck, vice chancellor for research at WSU Spokane, said, “This facility supports collaborative Spokane Advanced Imaging Institute and WSU scientific research studies in functional imaging using the new 3T MRI. New collaborative research opportunities exist for WSU neuroscience, cognitive science, drug addiction and sleep researchers in both Spokane and Pullman.”

Sleep and performance research is a prominent focus at WSU Spokane. Greg Belenky, director of the Sleep and Performance Research Lab, reports that there is a wide body of literature describing the use of functional imaging MRI technology relating to the study of sleep and sleep deprivation. Access to this system will further the work of WSU’s sleep deprivation research team, a leader among only a handful of teams in the world examining this critical performance and safety issue.

Scott Wilson, president and CEO of SAII, said, “In addition to providing clinical scanning to the Spokane area, it is SAII’s mission to offer this cutting-edge technology to the Spokane community. Combining SAII’s resources with WSU’s research strengths and interests will create exciting opportunities for advanced health science research.”

The agreement allows WSU faculty members to use SAII’s MRI facility during off hours at deeply discounted rates. WSU faculty members who want more information about the capability of this system may contact Scott Wilson.
Those would who would like to investigate potential research applications for this system should contact Dennis Dyck.

Spokane Advanced Imaging Institute is a joint venture between Empire Health Systems (which owns Deaconess Medical Center, Spokane and Valley Medical Center, Spokane Valley), Spokane Radiology Consultants and National Medical Development Inc. of Bellevue, Washington.

3.0 Tesla MRI

Most clinical MRI systems are 1.5 Tesla. (A tesla is a measure of magnetic field strength, which influences resolution and image quality.) The SAII system is 3.0T, twice as powerful as and faster than the standard MRI.

However, not all 3.0T MRI systems are created equal. All of the subsystems on SAII’s machine have been set up to run at maximum efficiency. This MRI provides applications in neurological, musculoskeletal, and abdominal imaging, as well as functional and cardiac studies, contrast-enhanced angiography, and spectroscopic imaging. Similar MRI systems are currently in use at Oregon Heath & Science University and Johns Hopkins University.

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