Head of the Magnetic Resonance Center

Prof. Dr. Klaus Scheffler


Secretary: Tina Schröder
Phone: +49 7071 601-701
Fax: +49 7071 601-702


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High-field Magnetic Resonance - Visualizing Thinking

Modern medical diagnostics would be unthinkable without magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In addition to traditional imaging, which reveals anatomical structures, functional MRI (fMRI) has become a valuable tool for brain research. It comes close to allowing us to watch the brain at work and has contributed considerably to the advances in human cognitive neuroscience. The special advantage of MRI is that experiments, unlike X-ray diagnostics, computer tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET), can be carried out without putting any strain on the health of the person being examined. In particular, it can create outstanding images of soft tissue in the biological organism, which means, especially at high magnetic fields, that for the first time it is possible to explore human brain processes non-invasively with good spatial resolution.

Our primary goal is to develop new magnetic resonance techniques that are able to specifically probe the structural and biochemical composition of living tissue. This is closely linked with our interest to understand the details of magnetic resonance signal formation within a living environment, as nuclear magnetization is continuously influenced by different processes during its live time between excitation and relaxation. This is a simple, eventually computationally demanding task, since we just have to forward the tiny fluctuating magnetic fields, which are sensed by the water during its random or oriented walk through tissue, to the Bloch or similar equations. A prominent example is the detection of neuronal activation with magnetic resonance, often called functional MRI or fMRI: increased neuronal activation increases the observed magnetic resonance signal, and sometimes vice versa. This BOLD effect is the working horse of numerous applications in cognitive neurosciences, however, a detailed understanding of this effect on a microscopic or mesoscopic scale is missing.

Besides functional MRI, which measures nerve cell activity indirectly via the blood flow and blood oxygenation response, magnetic resonance is also very useful for mapping neurochemical and neurobiological brain processes directly. However, a magnetic field stronger than that of clinical instruments is necessary for these advanced measurements. To provide optimal research opportunities, two ultra high-field magnetic resonance imaging systems were acquired - an MR system with a field strength of 9.4 Tesla and a usable volume of 60 cm diameter for human studies and a 14.1 Tesla MR system for small animal studies are available. In comparison, the strength of the earth’s magnetic field in Central Europe is around 0.00005 Tesla. In addition to the two large magnets, there is a clinical 3.0 Tesla MR system available, which will be used for neuroscience applications and joint ventures.

Research on these three systems is focused on detection of neuronal activity and connectivity, as well as on the neurochemistry of the brain. This requires the development of new methods, which permit highly specific and quantitative mapping of neuronal activity and bioenergetic processes in nerve cells. Faster image acquisition and better image quality also form part of the research objective. The high magnetic field strengths provide the possibility to apply high resolution spectroscopic MR methods. These techniques permit to obtain more precise insights in the chemical processes in the brain. For example, the function of neurotransmitters such as GABA or glutamate can be revealed in greater detail. In addition to hydrogen, the most frequently used nucleus in MRI, it is possible to use the signal from other MR active elements such as carbon, oxygen, fluorine, sodium or phosphorus. Such investigations are less feasible in devices with low magnetic fields, because of the much lower sensitivity and concentration of these nuclei compared to hydrogen.

Research Groups of the Department

Ultra High Field Magnetic Resonance
MR signal formation in cortical vessel networks

The High-Field MR and Methodology group focuses mainly on the development of MR techniques, with emphasis on MR imaging and spectroscopy at ultra high field. In addition, the characteristics and advantages of ultra high magnetic fields are investigated. For this, we have, with a 9.4 T human MR scanner and an instrument for animal research with a field strength of 16.4 T, two of the most sophisticated tomographs worldwide.[more]



Brain imaging at 9.4T or 14.1T opens the possibility to resolve structures far below the thickness of 2-3 mm of the human neurocortex. In most areas the cortical sheet is divided into six cortical layers with a generic pattern of long-range feed-forward connections to higher-order brain regions and feedback connections to lower-order cortical and subcortical regions. Some cortical regions, are organized as cylinder-like cortical columns perpendicular to the cortical surface of cell bands with similar somatotopic response properties. Opens internal link in current window[more]


MRI RF Hardware

Clinical Studies at Ultra-High Magnetic Field strengths (UHF)

The focus in the RF lab is to develop transmit arrays that provides control over the B1+ field for RF shimming and dynamic parallel transmission methods. The transmit arrays are combined with tight fitting receive arrays for increased receive sensitivity. Precise numerical simulation and safety evaluation are carried out to ensure safe in-vivo use. Travelling wave imaging and prospective motion correction using NMR field probes are being explored. Opens internal link in current window[more] 

 We investigate the capability of UHF to unravel fine-grained tissue alterations by coupling advanced MRI methods to the latest discoveries in medical research. Methods are tailored to enhance pathology related alterations of tissue structure and function.  Through the use of high-field, high resolution quantification of MR parameters, we aim to open up new windows into the complexity of pathophysiologic processes Opens internal link in current window[more]


Low Field Magnetic Resonance
Neuropsychiatric Imaging

The Low Field MR group develops a NMR/MRI system where the detection coil is based on a Superconducting QUantum Interference Device (SQUID). With this system MR experiments can be accomplished in the earth magnetic field up to the mT range. These field strengths are optimal for polarization transfer reactions between parahydrogen and a catalyst allowing hyperpolarization of the sample. The goal of the project is to test and optimize these hyperpolarized contrast agents up to the point where in vivo studies become feasible. Opens internal link in current window [more]


The Research Group on Neuropsychiatric Imaging focuses on high-field MR imaging of diagnostic and prognostic features in psychiatry. Our main aim is to understand the susceptibility for (ongoing) psychiatric illnesses and our focus is on cognitive-emotional integration, resting state functional MRI and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.  Opens internal link in current window [more]


DFG Reinhart Koselleck Project

The aim of this project is to develop new mathematical methods for the analysis of both standard fMRI data (3 Tesla) as well as ultra-high field fMRI data (>=7 Tesla). We aim to harvest as much of the information content of fMRI as possible in order to advance our understanding of human brain function. Specifically, our work has focused on the development of novel techniques for statistical inference and for the detection of functional brain networks. Furthermore, we are currently

developing machine learning techniques using deep neural nets, both considering the preprocessing and analysis of fMRI data. Opens internal link in current window [more]


TrueBOLD addresses the detection of neuronal activity in humans with magnetic resonance imaging based on the TrueFISP or balanced SSFP acquisition scheme at very high fields. Traditionally, blood oxygenation changes are detected with T2*-weighted echo planar sequences (EPI) that are sensitive to the static dephasing around small and larger vessels filled with deoxygenated blood. EPI is not specific to a certain type of vessel architecture or size, it sometimes shows blurring and blooming around larger vessels, it shows significant spatial distortions and thus severe challenges in precise co-registration to submillimeter anatomical scans.Opens internal link in current window [more]



Last updated: Thursday, 02.11.2017