Academic journal article Human Ecology

Uncoiling MRI Technology

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Uncoiling MRI Technology

Article excerpt

The key advantage of magnetic resonance imaging is that it allows researchers to see inside living tissues, providing detailed pictures of internal structures without using invasive procedures. An array of specialized techniques allows scientists to visualize blood flow, water and tissue movement, the presence and concentration of various organic molecules, and more.

The core of an MRI machine is made up of coils of wire. Electricity is passed though the wire to create a magnetic field, which aligns the spins of hydrogen protons in water, which is abundant in people and most other life.

A coil, fit specifically for the body part to be imaged, transmits pulses of radiofrequency waves (similar to those used in cellphones and TV and radio broadcasting), causing some of the hydrogen protons to absorb the energy and temporarily change their spins. When the pulse is turned off, the hydrogen protons return to their prior state and give off a detectable energy signal that the coils identify and send to the MRI computer. During imaging, additional small gradient magnetic fields are used to encode this signal with spatial location. …

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