France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) has revealed the first human brain images captured by the world’s most powerful MRI scanner.

The Iseult MRI machine, with a magnetic field strength of 11.7 teslas, represents over two decades of research and development.

This milestone follows the initial trials on a pumpkin in 2021 and recent approval from health authorities to scan humans.

In the past few months, approximately 20 healthy volunteers were scanned by the Iseult MRI machine.

The images obtained display remarkable resolution, with an acquisition time of four minutes, 0.2mm in-plane resolution, and 1mm slice thickness. This level of detail is equivalent to the volume of a few thousand neurons.

The Iseult MRI machine’s capabilities far exceed those of standard hospital MRI scanners, which operate at 1.5 or 3 teslas and would require hours to achieve similar image quality.

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Such extended durations are impractical for patient comfort and risk image distortion from movement.

The unprecedented resolution of the Iseult MRI machine is poised to revolutionise medical research.

It will provide ultra-detailed anatomical information crucial for diagnosing and managing neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Additionally, the machine’s high magnetic field will enhance the detection of chemical species with low signal strength such as lithium, a drug which is used for treating bipolar disorders.

It will also improve the understanding of brain metabolism by facilitating the study of glucose and glutamate, which are vital in characterising brain diseases.

CEA Iseult project head and research director Nicolas Boulant said: “With the Iseult project, a whole new world is opening up before our eyes, and we are excited to explore it. We still need several years of research to develop and improve our acquisition methods and ensure that the data has the highest quality possible.

“Our goal is to investigate neurodegenerative diseases by 2026-2030, as well as other diseases that fall more under psychiatry such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Cognitive sciences will also be of key importance in our research.”