George Mason Purchases $1.8 Million Brain Scanning Technology

Posted: October 19, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

George Mason’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study announced its purchase of a state-of-the-art brain scanning machine, significantly upgrading the university’s research capabilities by providing high-quality imaging. With this purchase, George Mason becomes one of two, alongside Princeton University, non-medical schools with a cognitive neuroscience research institute to own functional imaging technology.

George Mason purchased the technology in part to respond to Gov. Mark Warner’s Education for a Lifetime initiative for Virginia’s higher education system. Part of the initiative involves promoting a research-oriented environment and strengthening the state’s academic research programs.

The technology, a Siemens Magnetom Allegra 3 Tesla scanner, uses a process called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which is noninvasive and allows scientists to visually identify structural and functional characteristics of the human brain.

George Mason research faculty will now be able to see and measure how the brain functions when it is performing a variety of tasks, such as answering a question or making a decision. This can provide valuable information for understanding the causes of and finding new treatments and interventions for many neurological diseases, including strokes, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, as well as psychiatric disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“The new brain scanner will provide our faculty and students with the necessary tools to conduct next-generation research,” says James Olds, director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. “We will be poised to attract cognitive neuroscience researchers and students who find this technology critical to their work. They can work in an ‘in-house’ environment and truly take ownership of their research.”

The science governance board of the new MRI facility is the Neuroimaging Core of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study (NICKI). NICKI’s purpose is to support existing research projects based on the use of MRI technology.

One study will use the new brain scanner to examine developmental learning and behavior. This research will investigate the relationship between talent and disability as well as reasoning and attention. The work will encompass the study of the brain in development, such as how children with attention deficits process reasoning, and the human brain in regression, particularly how Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

The new brain scanner will also be shared with other academic departments, including George Mason’s Law and Neuroeconomics Center. The scanner will be used to study how the brain interacts with its external environment to produce economic behavior, allowing researchers to better understand economic decision making and consequently, predict economic behavior.

In addition, faculty members in the School of Computational Sciences and Department of Psychology, as well as other investigators within and outside the university who wish to conduct research using MRI technology, will have access to the scanner.

George Mason’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study funded the $1.8 million purchase of the brain scanner. Construction is under way at the Krasnow Institute to prepare for the scanner’s installation. For more information on the institute, see the web site.

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