Tuesday, January 13, 2009

10 Million X Finer Resolution MRI

IBM Research scientists, in collaboration with the Center for Probing the Nanoscale at Stanford University, have demonstrated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with volume resolution 100 million times finer than conventional MRI.

This result, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), signals a significant step forward in tools for molecular biology and nanotechnology by offering the ability to study complex 3D structures at the nanoscale.

By extending MRI to such fine resolution, the scientists have created a microscope that, with further development, may ultimately be powerful enough to unravel the structure and interactions of proteins, paving the way for new advances in personalized healthcare and targeted medicine. This achievement stands to impact the study of materials from proteins to integrated circuits for which a detailed understanding of atomic structure is essential.

Today has been a kewl day for scitech announcements.

IBM isn't out from under the death glare as work though.


Anonymous said...

Will, that's significantly higher resolution than is needed for brain mapping down to neuron level. They're imaging the rods of Tobacco Mosaic Virus, which are only 20 nm or so wide. That's the width of a *synapse*, and they say they can probably improve that ten-fold.

The current method is not amenable to scale up. But, you know. [crazy talk] Since I know something about medical imaging, and magnetic resonance in particular, I knew that ideas of scanning brains for downloading (as in singularity SF) were not well thought out. The voxels are too coarse, and the trend line not very hopeful. This development makes the idea... plausible. [/crazy talk]


Will Baird said...

I knew it was far, far more than necessary for brain mapping. This has a lot of potential passed the medical.

This development makes the idea... plausible

Don't make me go get a wet halibut to smack you. Mapping is one thing...the Singoofilatry is a whole several steps more.

Uploading. pha.

Anonymous said...

No halibut please.

We're probably going to need new terminology. "Downloading a complete map of the active structures of someone's brain" != "downloading someone's personality", although the former would include the latter in posse.

I try imagining the software involved and I get a headache. It's "only" a question of reverse engineering.

On the other hand, I haven't seen the raw data at that level. No one has. I *suspect* that extracting high-level data from a fine-grained brain map will be a very hard problem, but that's more of a hunch than anything else. The little red man on my left shoulder whispers that higher cognitive functions are a recent evolutionary development and thus will "look" more obvious.