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Introduction

Neurospin is a research centre dedicated to neuroimaging. It was opened on January 1st 2007 and belongs to Life Science Direction at CEA (but has strong links with the Matter Science Division since its conception). Neurospin is a shared imaging facility with unique devices. It is headed by Dr. Denis Le Bihan, a Member of the French Academy of Sciences.

Six scientific programs

The research is organised along six scientific programs:

  • Pushing the limits of MRI
  • Multiscale brain functional architecture
  • Linking Genetics and phenotypic variability with brain anatomy and function
  • Increasing knowledge on brain development and plasticity
  • Elucidating cognitive codes (language, calcul, consciousness, ...)

Four Research units

Neurospin is organized four laboratories whose activities combine research and support to the research programs :

  • NMR methodological research for imaging and spectroscopy (UNIRS, lab leader Cyril Poupon),
  • Neurocomputing (UNATI, lab leader Vincent Frouin),
  • Clinical research (UNIACT, lab leader Lucie Hertz-Pannier, MD),
  • Cognitive neuroimaging (Unicog, lab leader Stanislas Dehaene, also a Member of the Academy of Sciences)

Research platform

The NeuroSpin platform (managed by Jean-Robert Deverre) has nearly 11000 m² of laboratories, offices, technical facilities, and seminar space. This platform consists of both a clinical facility for hosting normal human participants and patients, including children, with 8 beds, test/examination rooms, a nursing facility, a mock scanner and an ICU (for studies of consciousness), as well as a preclinical facility for small animals (several hundreds of mice, transgenic mice and rats) and primates (30 animals, including trained primates). NeuroSpin also houses several laboratories (electronics, chemistry, biology, histology, etc.). NeuroSpin has been developed specifically with the idea of being a platform for different research teams to use (see platform access policy).

Benefiting from CEA expertise in magnet and NMR technology, NeuroSpin is being equipped with unique MRI systems operating at ultra high magnetic field strengths (UHF) not yet available elsewhere in the world, as well as related tools and an advanced computer platform. The use of UHF for MR studies is attractive for several reasons. Firstly, the signal to noise ratio (SNR) increases approximately in proportion to field strength. This gain can be used to either increase spatial resolution beyond that available at lower field strengths or traded off against other imaging parameters such as scan time. Secondly, additional contrast mechanisms come into play. The most obvious example of this are images which are weighted to reflect local differences in susceptibility, which are now producing images of the in-vivo human brain in unprecedented detail. Thirdly, for MRS, an additional advantage is the greater separation of spectral lines, allowing the discrimination of peaks that overlap at lower field.

Conceptual vision

Neurospin is neither a center of neurosciences or biology, nor a center of MRI physics. Such centers already exist at other sites in the world. Our objective is different: we wish to join together on the same location the methodological and neurobiological players so that they develop, in synergy, the tools and the models which will enable them to better understand the working of the human brain in normal and deficient conditions. This intimate and strong coupling between neuroimaging methodology and applications makes NeuroSpin very different from other structures more dedicated to neurosciences. The results of this project should impact clinical, artificial intelligence, social sciences and industrial fields. A point that must be emphasized is that the equipment, methodologies, and human resources needed for imaging humans are mostly the same as those used on animals. That is the reason why the grouping of teams around a state-of-the-art imaging facility, dedicated to both human and animal studies, appears as an ideal solution, both from scientific and biomedical as well as economic points of view. This concept, which we are trying bring to life between NeuroSpin and MIRCen within I²BM, is now adopted in many developed nations, who are anxious to optimize the return from very heavy investments, whether public or private.