Virtual MRI Course
A virtual imaging laboratory offers a unique opportunity to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education by using the cutting-edge technology of MRI without overburdening an institute with expensive equipment and infrastructure. It is the mission of Northeastern University (NEU) to better humanity through education. Efforts here are to extend latest and cutting-edge preclinical MRI techniques to all members of our community, particularly those without the resources or easy access to this technology.
The Center for Translational Neuro-Imaging (CTNI) at NEU is high field Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) center. The Bruker BioSpec 70/20 MRI at CTNI is multipurpose research system for high-resolution Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Imaging. The system is equipped with 7 Tesla superconducting magnet designed with “Ultra Shielded Refrigerated” (USR) magnet technology. The USR technology significantly reduces the stray field to close to the magnet. The scanner has actively shielded, high-performance BGA-S series gradient system with integrated shim coil.
CTNI is set-up to be a virtual imaging lab; video cameras are positioned throughout the center so that anyone off-site can observe the manual activities of preparing an animal for imaging, the positioning of the animal in the magnet, and the tuning and matching of radiofrequency electronics. After this set-up, the off-site participant can “take over” the console and run the experiment, setting parameters for anatomical and functional imaging protocols, modifying the pulse sequences for different imaging modalities, etc. The interface between the imaging lab and the off-site participant is an interactive, multimedia whiteboard with multiple projections.
- Knowledge of topical issues in neuroscience, e.g. traumatic brain injury
- Knowledge of translational research (animals to humans). Why we do what we do.
- Knowledge of scientific reasoning e.g. Kuhn “Scientific Revolution”
- Knowledge of experimental design, e.g. evidence-based hypothesis testing
- Knowledge of magnetic resonance imaging
- Basic principles of MR physics
- Basic understanding of MR applications, e.g. BOLD imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, MR spectroscopy
- Basic principles of data acquisition
- Basic principles of data analysis
- Knowledge of brain and biomarkers
- Knowledge of scientific writing
- Knowledge and practice of manuscript preparation and submission
New Learning Techniques
The course curriculum is driven by hands-on, student participation in scientific discovery. The classroom is virtual, taught from Northeastern University’s Center for Translational Neuro-Imaging (CTNI). The CTNI is set up to be a virtual imaging lab. The interface between the imaging lab and the off-site participant is interactive. Each student at the remote site needs to have their own computer that mirrors the computer on the imaging console at CTNI. The instructor at CTNI can assign any student in the lab the control of the imaging console. As many as 20 students at a time, using online video communication, receive didactic training in the principles and practices of MR Imaging. Imaging Experts anywhere in the world can provide online instruction and lectures from their own desktops, using shared meeting software (We use BlueJeans and no cost to remote site). Subsequently, groups of 3 or 4 students are able to take control of the imaging equipment, complete collections of imaging data, transfer this data to remote site for analysis, learn to write computer scripts for specific algorithms in data handling and analysis, and use these experiments to drive ‘next questions’.
Publishing a peer-reviewed manuscript based on original data collected and analyzed by the students is a major step toward critical thinking and independence. Students will design their own experiments guided by knowledge of the literature and technical and statistical limitations. The course integrates, physics, mathematics, neuroscience, scientific philosophy with cutting-edge technology addressing a major health issue.
Courses can be tailored for different streams and different level from undergraduate (bachelors) to MS/Ph.D. (Postgraduate) students, where students are required to understand the problem, draw questions about the problem and design studies to answer those questions and disseminate their findings to the public through peer-reviewed publication.
Basic application of MRI is in health sciences; the course we offer now is founded on the preclinical study of a major CNS health problems. But courses can be designed for medical image processing and data analysis. RF coil and MRI pulse sequence development is another very vibrant area of research.