Design analysis of an MPI human functional brain scanner

Int J Magn Part Imaging. 2017;3(1):1703008. doi: 10.18416/ijmpi.2017.1703008. Epub 2017 Mar 23.


MPI's high sensitivity makes it a promising modality for imaging brain function. Functional contrast is proposed based on blood SPION concentration changes due to Cerebral Blood Volume (CBV) increases during activation, a mechanism utilized in fMRI studies. MPI offers the potential for a direct and more sensitive measure of SPION concentration, and thus CBV, than fMRI. As such, fMPI could surpass fMRI in sensitivity, enhancing the scientific and clinical value of functional imaging. As human-sized MPI systems have not been attempted, we assess the technical challenges of scaling MPI from rodent to human brain. We use a full-system MPI simulator to test arbitrary hardware designs and encoding practices, and we examine tradeoffs imposed by constraints that arise when scaling to human size as well as safety constraints (PNS and central nervous system stimulation) not considered in animal scanners, thereby estimating spatial resolutions and sensitivities achievable with current technology. Using a projection FFL MPI system, we examine coil hardware options and their implications for sensitivity and spatial resolution. We estimate that an fMPI brain scanner is feasible, although with reduced sensitivity (20×) and spatial resolution (5×) compared to existing rodent systems. Nonetheless, it retains sufficient sensitivity and spatial resolution to make it an attractive future instrument for studying the human brain; additional technical innovations can result in further improvements.