Ultrahigh Field Imaging

Welcome to the ultrahigh field (UHF) MRI group at the BioMedical Engineering and Imaging Institute (BMEII) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Led by Dr. Priti Balchandani, the ultrahigh field MRI group devises creative engineering methods to overcome some of the main limitations of operating at high magnetic fields, thereby enabling high-resolution whole-brain anatomical, spectroscopic and diffusion imaging, as well as unlocking new contrast mechanisms and sources of signal. To achieve these goals, Dr. Balchandani’s team focuses on novel radio frequency (RF) pulse and pulse sequence design, and specialized hardware solutions such as parallel transmission. These techniques are used to improve diagnosis, treatment, and surgical planning for a wide range of neurological diseases and disorders.

Leadership

Priti Balchandani, PhD, is a Professor of Diagnostic, Molecular and Interventional Radiology, Neuroscience and Psychiatry. She is the Director of the Advanced Neuroimaging Research Program (ANRP) and Associate Director of the BioMedical Engineering and Imaging Institute (BMEII). Her research has been focused on bridging the gap between advanced electrical engineering techniques and medical imaging applications.

Photo Credit: Claudia Paul

Brain Tumors

Utilizing 7 Tesla imaging techniques
to visualize tumor anatomy

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at ultrahigh field strengths, such as 7 Tesla (7T), offers exceptional resolution and contrast and is particularly effective at elucidating nerves, vasculature, fiber tracts and tumor anatomy. We propose the first ever application of 7T multi-modal MRI to provide ultraprecise image guidance for endoscopic surgical planning and intraoperative decision-making. Our lab has the specific expertise in developing signal transmission tools, such as novel adiabatic radiofrequency (RF) pulses, to upgrade conventional imaging methods to robustly perform at ultrahigh fields. We hypothesize that our optimized 7T imaging techniques will depict tumor anatomy and adjacent structures in unprecedented detail, transforming pre- and intra-operative decision making for endoscopic endonasal surgery (EES), and dramatically increasing the success rate, safety and applicability of the technique.

Lab Members:

Raj Shrivastava, MD
Alan Siefert, PhD
Akbar Alipour, PhD
Gaurav Verma, PhD
John (Jack) Rutland, BS
Bradley Delman, MD, MS

Major Depressive Disorder

Using 7T imaging protocols and specialized pulse sequences
to image, diagnose, and treat major depressive disorder

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Ultrahigh field MRI scanners enable us to visualize smaller, more subtle abnormalities in human brain structure and metabolism. There are several physical limitations and technical issues, which we aim to overcome with the development of specialized MRI pulse sequences and novel radiofrequency (RF) pulses. From these advancements a multimodal 7T MRI protocol will be built, which will establish imaging biomarkers for major depressive disorder (MDD). Our goals are to develop high-resolution 7T structural diffusion and spectroscopic imaging methods to reveal grey matter abnormalities, white matter degradation, and cellular loss associated with the disorder, as well as to achieve a 20–40% greater signal-to-noise ratio in important brain regions, while remaining within safety limits. We also aim to build a multiparametric 7T imaging protocol to compare quantitative imaging measures between a group of MDD patients and controls. These quantitative imaging biomarkers for MDD will have significant value in noninvasively assessing treatment response and tailoring new therapies based on the fundamental underlying biology of MDD.

Lab members:

James Murrough, MD, PhD
Gaurav Verma, PhD
Laurel Morris, PhD
Yael Jacob, PhD
Judy Alper, MS
Ameen Al Qadi, BS
Bradley Delman, MD, MS
Mackenzie Langan

Epilepsy

Researching the neurology of epilepsy using
state-of-the-art 7T human MRI scanners

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At Mount Sinai, we use the state-of-the-art research-dedicated 7T human MRI scanner to increase imaging conspicuity of epileptogenic abnormalities. It produces improved detection efficiency and reduced use of invasive electrophysiological evaluation. The 7T MRI provides accurate delineation of lesion boundaries, aiding in neurosurgical planning. Our lab designs innovative RF pulses and pulse sequences to overcome limitations and fully utilize the signal-to-noise ratio and novel contrast mechanisms offered by high-field MR magnets for imaging and spectroscopy of epilepsy. These tools will be combined to compose a comprehensive 7T epilepsy imaging protocol. We are collaborating with neurologist doctors Madeline Fields and Lara Marcuse to evaluate this protocol in a pilot study of epilepsy patients who are candidates for surgical intervention.

Lab members:

Mackenzie Langan, BS
Gaurav Verma, PhD
Yael Jacob, PhD
Ameen Al Qadi, BS
Bradley Delman, MD, MS

Pathological Anxiety

Imaging the neurology of pathological anxiety
disorders using cutting-edge 7T MRI technology

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Anxiety and stress-related disorders, including panic disorder (PD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are among the most disabling neuropsychiatric conditions in the United States. Along with PI, Dr. James Murrough, we are performing the first transdiagnostic in vivo study of the locus Coeruleus (LC) in anxiety and leveraging cutting-edge 7T MRI in patients with PD, PTSD, GAD. We are developing and applying MRI innovations for 7T structural, connectomic, and functional characterization of the LC in terms of drivers of pathological anxiety across diagnostic boundaries. Using quantitative magnetization transfer (MT) imaging and neurite orientation dispersion density imaging (NODDI), we perform precise localization, quantification, and microstructural characterization of the LC in humans.

Lab members:

Laurel Morris, PhD
James Murrough, MD, PhD
Yael Jacob, PhD

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Using 7 Tesla MRI techniques to capture
detailed images of the structures involved in
trigeminal neuralgia pathology

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There is a critical need to provide more targeted and effective treatments for trigeminal neuralgia (TN), which is considered to be one of the most painful afflictions known to medical practice and currently has no cure. We will develop and validate non-invasive, highly sensitive imaging techniques using state-of-the-art 7T MRI to elucidate the delicate structures involved in TN pathology. We have already demonstrated this integration of 7T imaging into TN diagnosis and neurosurgical planning for a preliminary set of patients. We are also providing novel tools to extend and refine 7T MR imaging methods to better detect and visualize the nerves and vessels involved in TN. We hope to transform the diagnosis and treatment of TN through improved detection and characterization of the physiological source of pain for each patient. Our work will also provide valuable imaging markers to enhance our overall understanding of TN etiology.

Lab members:

Judy Alper, MS
Yael Jacob, PhD
Bradley Delman, MD, MS
Raj Shrivastava, MD
John (Jack) Rutland, BS
Alan Siefert, PhD

Radio Frequency Pulse Design

Developing novel radio frequency pulses and
pulse sequences to image the human brain
in unprecedented detail

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The primary research goal of our lab is to develop anatomic, spectroscopic and diffusion magnetic resonance (MR) imaging tools to elucidate changes in brain structure, metabolism and connectivity in the presence of disease. Our work is focused on the application of signal processing principles to the development of novel radio frequency (RF) pulses and pulse sequences that maximize the information imparted by MR images. We have developed several techniques to harness the power of high-field MR magnets by overcoming physical and hardware limitations in order to visualize the human brain in unprecedented structural and metabolic detail. Together, these techniques have the potential to drastically improve diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of neurological diseases and disorders as well as advance our understanding of the brain in the normal state.

Lab members:

Oleksandr Khegai, PhD
Akbar Alipour, PhD
Gaurav Verma, PhD

COVID-19

Using the advanced technology of 7T imaging
to study the pathophysiology of COVID-19

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Although neurological symptoms have been observed in a significant number of COVID-19 patients, a prospective study aimed at scanning recovered COVID-19 patients with advanced multi-modal neuroimaging methods has yet to be performed. There is much to be learned about the persisting effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on the central nervous system, and high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the ideal non-invasive tool to reveal these effects as well as mechanisms of infection. We will leverage the high resolution and enhanced contrasts offered by multi-modal 7 Tesla (7T) imaging to study the structural, vascular, functional, and connectomic changes in the brain related to the pathophysiology of COVID-19. In particular, we will reveal, in unprecedented detail, brain abnormalities resulting from the SARS-CoV-2 infection as well as shine a brighter light on possible links to loss of respiratory drive due to viral infection through the brainstem.

Lab members:

Oleksandr Khegai, PhD
Akbar Alipourm, PhD
Gaurav Verma, PhD
Laurel Morris, PhD
Alan Siefert, PhD
Yael Jacob, PhD
Ameen Al Qadi, BS
Mackenzie Langan, BS
Bradley Delman, MD, MS
Nathalie Jette, MD

Hardware Development

Developing specialized UHF coils to improve
the accuracy, efficiency, and safety of
imaging technologies

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Our team at BMEII designs custom coils to support research projects. This includes specialized UHF coils, for example, sodium dual tuned head coils, and a body parallel transmit array. We explore cutting-edge and optimal coil design concepts for individual applications. Simple insertable RF resonator arrays have been developed in house to enhance signals when used in conjunction with existing RF coils. Team members are also investigating local specific absorption rate (SAR) in ultra-high field MRI with full-wave simulation of the RF system to ensure safety of subjects.

Lab members:

Alan Seifert, PhD
Akbar Alipour, PhD
Shams Rashid, PhD

News

Latest Publications

Artificial intelligence–enabled rapid diagnosis of patients with COVID-19

Xueyan Mei, Hao-Chih Lee, […] Yang Yang
Nat Med (2020).

Probing myeloid cell dynamics in ischaemic heart disease by nanotracer hot-spot imaging

Max L. Senders, Anu E. Meerwaldt, ... Willem J. M. Mulder
Nat. Nanotechnol. 15, 398–405 (2020).

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