CRANIA unveils state-of-the-art MRI scanner

This device has the potential to dramatically improve imaging of the brain around implanted electrodes.

A new imaging suite at Toronto Western Hospital will soon be used to help UHN clinicians and researchers locate and map hard to reach parts of the human brain.  

The CenteR for Advancing Neurotechnological Innovation to Application (CRANIA) recently unveiled a key component of its research technologies —a state-of-the-art 0.5 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. 

This device has the potential to dramatically improve the imaging of the brain around implanted electrodes, and provide anatomically superior images compared to magnets of high field strength. It is the first Health Canada approved 0.5 T MRI scanner from Synaptive to be used in an Ontario hospital setting, and first in the world for clinical neuromodulation. 

“The addition of this scanner will significantly enhance UHN’s imaging capabilities, allowing clinicians to develop more effective treatments and encourage researchers from various disciplines to work together in creating new synergies.” said CRANIA’s co-director Dr. Taufik Valiante

“Investing in cutting edge technology is one of the reasons why UHN continues to be a global leader in neuromodulation.” 

The CRANIA program brings together the combined brainpower of clinicians, researchers and trainees from KITE, the Krembil Brain Institute, as well as faculties across the University of Toronto. Its mission is to accelerate the translation of neuromodulation research into patient solutions that enhance brain health and function. 

Neuromodulation changes brain, spinal cord, and nerve function through the targeted delivery of a stimulus, such as electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific neurological sites in the body. 

The scanner is an integral part of CRANIA's neuromodulation suite—a premier clinical research facility that will be at the forefront of advancing the field of neuroscience through imaging and surgical technology. The suite will advance protocols and tools for accurate targeting of deep brain structures, which is expected to lead to improved patient outcomes.  

"We are pleased to realize the next chapter in our efforts to advance neuromodulation research through this new suite," said Dr. Brad Wouters, Executive Vice President of Science and Research at UHN. 

"This investment will enable our CRANIA program to not only unlock new solutions for people affected by neurological disorders, but also forge new collaborations locally to enhance Toronto's reputation as a global leader in brain research."

CRANIA’s co-founders Dr. Valiante and Dr. Milos R. Popovic are the driving forces behind the scanner as they saw the potential of such novel imaging technologies securing the CFI funding and then oversaw the two-year construction phase.  

As the 0.5T lives within the Joint Department of Medical Imaging (JDMI), it will be accessible to CRANIA researchers and clinicians alike, extending the research capabilities of the magnet well beyond neuromodulation.  This continues a key CRANIA value – the democratization of neurotechnology. 

“JDMI is excited to partner with CRANIA by providing operational support. The lower field strength of this state-of-art device opens up new and unique frontiers for research,” said Tracey Lui who is the director of Translation Research & Innovation for JDMI.  

“Its proximity to JDMI’s more traditional MRI scanners further expands opportunities for discovery.”

This incredible achievement would not have been possible without the generous support of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Research Fund, and the Walter and Maria Schroeder Foundation.  

“Their dedication and commitment to advancing healthcare have been instrumental in turning our vision into reality,” said Dr. Milos R. Popovic, CRANIA co-director and KITE Research Institute Director. “I would also like to thank our incredible partners at Synaptive who have made invaluable contributions to this project.”