Turning Magnetic Resonance Inside Out

Article excerpt

People undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans must remain within the coils of the scanner's electromagnet. Otherwise, the patient isn't in a magnetic field uniform enough to give a good image. Unfortunately, patients often find this situation uncomfortable.

Maybe there's a better way, say Carlos A. Meriles, Alexander Pines, and their colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley.

These researchers have developed a means for recovering useful magnetic resonance signals from materials within a nonuniform magnetic field. The method, described in the July 6 SCIENCE, may benefit both medical imaging and the widely used chemical-analysis technique known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, Meriles says.

Ultimately, it may enable doctors, scientists, and others to analyze samples placed beside a magnetic coil, not in it. For patients, that could translate into a less claustrophobic experience.

Both MRI and NMR depend on the spin of atomic nuclei, a property that makes those nuclei act like tiny bar magnets. …