MRI and its Applications

By Soumonetra Chaudhury

MRI Scan

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) also known as Nuclear magnetic resonance, is a non-invasive, structural diagnostic imaging procedure. It provides both two and three-dimensional images of soft tissues. Unlike other diagnostic techniques, such as X-rays and computerized tomography, MRI does not expose any radiation to the patients. It is a beneficial mode of scanning as it is painless and it provides a diagnosis of any soft tissues like intracranial tissues which are otherwise hard to access.

MRI scanning is initiated by developing a strong stable magnetic field that is created by the component’s strong magnet. This results in the alignment of the hydrogen particle in the patient’s body in the focused region. When the aligned hydrogen ions are bombarded with radio frequency, it results in them getting dispersed. The MRI’s computer then converts the signals emitted by the hydrogen particles into images when the hydrogen ions come back to the state of equilibrium which is used for analyzing abnormalities.

Applications of MRI

MRI is useful in detecting various states of brain-like internal bleeding, abnormal swelling, tumor, cyst, identifying deformities at the developmental and structural level, issues in blood vessels, etc. It is also extremely effective in detecting stroke and analyzing issues like dizziness, continuous headaches, seizures, and multiple sclerosis. 

In cases of diagnosing abnormalities in the pituitary gland and brain stem, MRI overpowers other brain scanning techniques as it provides clearer pictures than the other techniques. The dual research study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in December 2019 also state that MRI helps in illustrating deformity in the brains with people diagnosed with depression. MRI is however not only restricted to clinical settings, but it can also be used in a forensic setting as well with post-mortem examinations utilizing MRI in babies proving to be increasingly accurate

MRI in clinical, forensic, and marketing settings

Magnetic Resonance Imaging can be applied in various diverse fields. Clinically, MRI is one of the most useful tools for imaging. It is found that MRI can identify abnormalities in the central nervous system, especially the posterior fossa and brain stem, better than other imaging techniques like computed tomography.

 As MRI lacks ionizing radiation and is sensitive to abnormal and normal patterns of myelination, it is found to be immensely effective for detecting neonatal and paediatric abnormalities. 

The fMRI is effective in market research. Initial investigations in the field depict that fMRI can provide us with insight into subliminal procedures, for example, emotional aspects of consumer conduct. As events like brand positioning, advertising strategies involve emotions and neuropsychological activities, fMRI can be incorporated by brand management and advertising companies. (Kenning et al., 2007). 

In a forensic setting, MRI plays a significant role in detecting natural death and assessing traumatic soft-tissue injuries. MRI is mostly used during cases like blunt force, wounds caused by stab and age estimation. It is also useful in identifying foreign particles with the exception of ferromagnetic substances as it could get influenced under the strong magnetic field of the MRI unit.

References and Suggested Readings

Why We Sleep

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

MRI made easy

Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past

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