University of Minnesota
Institute of Technology
myU OneStop

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Harnessing high magnetic fields towards understanding human brain function

Prof. Kamil Ugurbil
University of Minnesota, CMRR

Since the introduction functional brain imaging (fMRI) approximately two decades ago, there has been a revolution in the ability to image brain activity going from early experiments demonstrating relatively course images of activity in the visual cortex to mapping cortical columns and to “brain reading” that constructs mental experiences of an individual. These functional studies have been complemented with imaging of morphology, providing increasingly exquisite depictions of cerebral blood vessels, axonal fibers, myelin distribution etc. These developments have been marked by incessant improvements in instrumentation, image acquisition and reconstruction methods, and, in case of fMRI, a significant expansion in our knowledge of neurovascular coupling. Collectively, this body of work has brought us recently to the point of depicting functional activity and anatomy in three dimensions in the entire human brain with submillimeter resolution. The pace of development and discovery continues unabated after two decades, with increasing use of ultrahigh magnetic fields (7 Tesla and higher) that exploit new engineering solutions to ultrahigh field challenges, accelerations in image acquisition speeds that enable high resolution whole brain imaging in the subsecond domain, incorporation of motion correction approaches that allow us to exploit the high resolution acquisition capability, and the use of novel image analysis methods that in turn impact how we acquire images. Aspects of these developments will be reviewed and their implications for future developments will be discussed.

Prof. Kamil Ugurbil holds A.B., and Ph.D. degrees in physics, and chemical physics, awarded in year 1972, 1976, respectively, from Columbia University, New York, New York, and Honorary Doctorates (Doctorate Honoris Causa) received from University of Utrecht, Netherlands, in 2005, and Maastricht University, Netherlands in 2010. After receiving his PhD, he joined AT&T Bell Laboratories, and subsequently returned to Columbia University in 1979 as a faculty member. In 1982, he moved to the University of Minnesota where his research effort in magnetic resonance (MR) led to the evolution of his laboratory into an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary research center, the Center for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (CMRR).

Dr. Ugurbil currently holds the McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair Professorship in Radiology, Neurosciences, and Medicine and is the Director of CMRR at the University of Minnesota. His research focus has been the development of biological magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy using ultrahigh magnetic fields (7 Tesla and higher), with particular emphasis on neuroimaging and brain function.

Prof. Ugurbil’s contributions to biomedical magnetic resonance was recognized with the Gold Medal from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) 1996, election as a Fellow of ISMRM in 1997 and of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance (ISMAR) in 2009.  Dr. Ugurbil was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, National Academies in 2005 and 2007, respectively.