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Photos: MRI on the move

A magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) was delivered to the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Nov. 17, 2010, and installing the 30,000-pound machine proved nothing short of dramatic. More significant, it is a critical tool for unparalleled new programs, including the Roanoke Brain Study.

About MRIs

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines are powerful magnets that can image the inside of the human body. Because our bodies (including our brains) are made of primarily of water, the magnetic field allows for a non-invasive visualization of tissues.

The ability to use the machine to visualize the brain’s activity and structure is due to the properties of iron-containing hemoglobin molecules within the red blood cells that carry oxygen. Hemoglobin changes its magnetic properties after it delivers oxygen to the nerve cells in the brain, providing a detectable signal known as blood oxygen dependent level.