First Carle Health, University collaboration study to be run on new MRI scanner

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Madison Holcomb

The new 7 Tesla MRI scanner will be used at Carle Health by Carle and University professionals to examine how the brain ages over a persons lifetime.

By Madison Holcomb, Contributing Writer

Carle Health and the University are participating in their first joint study to research brain and cognitive health. 

The Champaign-Urbana Population Study is a study being conducted by a skilled research team using a new 7 Tesla MRI scanner to examine how the brain ages over a person’s lifespan. The scanner jointly belongs to Carle and the University. 

The research team is hoping to enroll around 300 adults ages 18-80 to participate in the study, which will include MRI scans, interviews, questionnaires, cognitive assessments and assessments of memory and physical activity.

Bruce Damon is one of the study’s co-principal investigators along with Tracey Wszalek, who both earned their doctorates at the University. 

“What we hope is that we will be able to kind of explore this data set and learn things about how the brain ages as people age,” Damon said. 

This study can help reveal unknown information about the brain. Patty Jones, project manager of CUPS, explained this point.

“There’s so much we do not know about the brain,” Jones said. “We need to learn about it, and I feel that the MRI is a great way to learn about it.” 

The 7 Tesla MRI is one of 12 of its type in the country and the only one in Illinois. Most 7 Teslas are only used for research purposes, but Carle’s will be used for both research and clinical use. The 7 Tesla has a stronger magnet than most MRI’s, which allows for a strong signal and high-resolution images, creating a more enhanced study. 

“We wanted a machine that was going to allow us to provide services to the clinical population at Carle, and also so we could drive the development of translation of technology in the imaging area,” Wszalek said. 

The data found in this study will help set a baseline for future operations for data scans and management, as well as provide information for other researchers and clinicians so they have a foundational data set to work from when developing their studies. 

The research team emphasized that the study will be a learning experience for participants as well, and they are looking to be representative and inclusive in terms of racial and ethnic demography. 

If an adult is interested in participating in the study, they should contact [email protected] or call at 217-383-7493. All adults are welcome as long as they can speak and understand English and don’t contain any metal in their bodies. 

If an undergraduate or graduate student is interested in assisting in the research side of the study, they should contact Beckman’s Biomedical Imaging Center at [email protected].

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that the 7 Tesla MRI scanner was owned solely by Carle. However, it is owned jointly by the University and Carle. The Daily Illini regrets this error.