Scientists trying to read your mind?

Did anyone else see this article? I came across it on msnbc.com – “Scientists Try to Predict Intentions: using brain scans to read minds before thoughts turn into actions” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17464320/)

I haven’t read anything Dr. Haynes has published in peer-reviewed journals on the topic (I’ll see what I can find) but this seems like another case of popular media grossly over-estimating (or mis-estimating?) the significance of the research. Take this excerpt:

But scientists are making enough progress to make ethicists nervous, since the research has already progressed from identifying the regions of the brain where certain thoughts occur to identifying the very content of those thoughts.

Although I think my favorite part is the opening paragraph, where the author writes:

At a laboratory in Germany, volunteers slide into a doughnut-shaped MRI machine and perform simple tasks, such as deciding whether to add or subtract two numbers, or choosing which of two buttons to press.

They have no inkling that scientists in the next room are trying to read their minds — using a brain scan to figure out their intention before it is turned into action.

Um…I think the first “inkling” that something is amiss is when these evil scientists ask you to step inside their big shiny machine. Perhaps I’m overly-critical. I still think articles like this are amusing, but it makes me cringe when I think that this is the public’s view of MR research. Any other opinions?

GE issues warnings about Omniscan

The following just came out over the SMRT mailing list:

Vendor issues new warning on Omniscan MR contrast for patients with kidney disease

GE Healthcare warned European providers Feb. 7 to discontinue the use of gadodiamide (Omniscan) for patients who may be at risk for a rare and life-threatening skin disease.

read the rest of the press release below the fold. Continue reading “GE issues warnings about Omniscan”

MRI explosion in Atlanta

In December, an MRI machine exploded due to a liquid nitrogen leak:

Two workers moving an MRI machine were injured Thursday after an explosion blew part of the machine into a wall. The workers were moving the machine at Atlanta Diagnostic Center in Kennesaw, said Firefighter Denell Boyd, a spokeswoman for the Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services Department. Boyd said liquid nitrogen leaked from the machine and caused the blast, knocking a 10-foot by 10-foot hole in the wall.

Several photos of the damage to the facility were taken by the MRI techs and distributed on the SMRT mailing list. Copies of these photos below the fold:

Continue reading “MRI explosion in Atlanta”

MRI-compatible pacemaker

via MedGadget,

Medtronic began the evaluation of its EnRhythm® MRI SureScan™ pacer, a technology designed for safe use in MRI machines, “under specified scanning conditions.” The company did not disclose what these specified scanning conditions are.

There’s a copy of the press release, too. I assume that certain kinds of scans are off-limits, like diffusion imaging. Eddy currents are probably the major concern. The press release does mention,

The EnRhythm MRI SureScan pacemaker includes modified hardware to minimize the level of energy transmitted through the lead/device connection point. The pacemaker also includes a new SureScan™ feature that can be programmed “on” before an MRI scan to eliminate the impact of MRI-generated electrical noise, which can prevent necessary pacing therapy or cause the device to oversense and deliver unnecessary pacing therapy. When the SureScan feature is on, the device’s data collection and monitoring functions are temporarily suspended, while allowing the device to continue providing asynchronous pacing if needed.

Imagine the future of this technology… what would be truly cool would be a pacemaker than can be interfaced to the scanner directly, so that pacing can be synchronized with the pulse sequence itself.

Superconductor breakthroughs imminent?

2007 may be a big year, at least according to industry spokespeople:

Low-cost MRI machines, super-fast Internet routers, and high-capacity power lines top the list of likely breakthroughs in the field of superconductivity in 2007, according to a ‘Top-10’ forecast list released today by Elie K. Track, Ph.D., senior partner, HYPRES Inc., a leading developer of superconducting microelectronics technology.

Dr. Track compiled the list of expected breakthroughs through comprehensive industry research, conversations with numerous scientific experts around the world, and through his work at HYPRES. The list was developed in an effort to pull together information on the wide variety of superconductivity projects worldwide and begin a dialog about the innovative advancements and breakthrough applications that are well positioned to occur next year.

“In my conversations with many respected colleagues, I continue to hear about new and exciting applications and breakthroughs that are likely to take place in 2007, largely because of the involvement of superconductor-based technologies,” said Dr. Track. “I thought it would be useful to pull all these together into one list so we can truly realize and appreciate the profound impact that superconductivity will have on various industries, the scientific community, and the average person in the coming year.”

Topping the list is an expected breakthrough announcement of laboratory demonstrations that can lead to an advanced, low-cost MRI machine that leverages superconducting technology.

It’s not clear to me how advances in supercon would lead to cheaper MRI machines. If room-temperature superconductors are developed, then design of MR machines can be simplified dramatically of course – no more cryo. But wouldn’t such new technology be expensive as well? I think it’s more likely that breakthroughs would lead to smaller MRI systems, ultimately even the fabled desktop unit. But cost savings aren’t going to come down the pike for years, even if high-temp supercon arrives tomorrow.

MRI of neonates

Philip Gordon, M.D. is a neonatologist whose blog, Tales from the Womb, occasionally touches on MRI-related topics. He has a recent post about the trouble with MRI in neonatology that is well worth reading. He takes issue with the emerging practice of attempting to use MRI to predict neuro-developmental outcomes in preterm infants, pointing to a paper in NEJM last year[1] as well as a more recent study at UNC Chapel Hill. He is highly skeptical:

Continue reading “MRI of neonates”

A Primer on Dixon Imaging

Dixon imaging is a technique for separating out water and fat in an MR image that depends on the relative chemical shift between water and fat (as opposed to relying on the absolute resonance frequencies, as in saturation-based techniques). For someone just getting started in this area, or who is simply interested, here is a list of references. I am not attempting to be exhaustive. In particular, I am not focusing strongly on clinical papers or more historical ones.

download: Endnote iconDixon primer (zipped EndNote library)

Continue reading “A Primer on Dixon Imaging”