$3 million fMRI scanner installed in Weiss Hall

Students across the university will soon be able to use the machine.

A $3 million fMRI scanner was delivered and installed in the basement of Weiss Hall last Thursday. | COURTESY / JASON CHEIN

An fMRI scanner was installed in the basement of Weiss Hall last week for students across colleges to work alongside researchers.

Decision neuroscience students — a joint program in the College of Liberal Arts and the Fox School of Business that studies the neurological decisions of consumers — will be able to utilize the new machine. Students working in labs in the College of Public Health, CLA students and Brain and Cognitive Science program students will also utilize the new machine.

The acronym fMRI stands for “functional magnetic resonance imaging.” This is a noninvasive technique for mapping brain activity by measuring blood volume when participants complete different tasks. An fMRI can be used to evaluate medical concerns, like the effects of a stroke.

The fMRI will aid in the research of adolescent development, decision sciences, representation of space and action and mental disorders.

The scanner cost more than $3 million. The university’s Neurocognition Lab received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to pay for a portion of the cost for the machine, said Jason Chein, a psychology professor. The College of Liberal Arts and the Office of the Provost paid for the remainder of the cost, Chein said.

Chein is the principal investigator of the Neurocognition Lab, which researches brain functions like short-term memory and cognitive control processes, according to the lab’s website.

“It would be highly desirable to have a Main Campus facility where we can enact our studies, have other facilities, testing rooms and other equipment on site,” Chein said.

Chein said fMRI technology allows researchers to see the brain “in action” and how the brain changes in its function when a person changes a task.

Before the new machine was installed, the department of psychology used a fMRI machine at Temple University Hospital.

Rosalie Shumann, a senior neuroscience major, said the machine is going to give undergraduate students a chance to work with imaging techniques that Main Campus didn’t have before.

“[The fMRI machine] gives Temple a leg-up in research,” Shumann added. “Classes teach us about imaging techniques, but to get to actually see techniques we learn about in class will be exciting.”

Students have to be trained by the investigators conducting research with the fMRI to use the new machine, Chein said.

The psychology department will be adding courses that incorporate the training and use of the scanner.

“Mostly at the graduate level, we’ll be putting in some internal courses to train people in the use of the scanner and in the design and analysis of MRI studies,” Chein said. “This scanner will be part of a course that we’ve already been putting on in absence of a facility.”

The investigators using the machine will receive money from federal, state and private foundation grants for the upkeep of the machine. They will have a staff of undergraduate or graduate student trained to implement their studies in the scanner, Chein added.

While the lab center is still figuring out rates for the usage of the scanner, students will have to pay an additional fee to use it within the range of $500.

Chein said the scanner is still under construction, but he anticipates the scanner to be ready for full use by January 2018.

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