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New Azrieli Institute pushes the limit on brain imaging

The Azrieli National Institute for Human Brain Imaging and Research was launched in a formal ceremony on March 6 in the presence of members of the Azrieli family and foundation as well as neuroscientists who will conduct research at the new facility.

The new national institute will promote studies related to the physiology, biochemistry, and functioning of the human brain. Under the direction of Prof. Noam Sobel, the Azrieli Institute features as its centerpiece a new, ultra-high-field 7T MRI system. The 7T MRI scanner will allow scientists throughout Israel to acquire and visualize anatomical, functional, and metabolic brain imaging data in three dimensions at previously unattainable spatial resolution and precision.

7-Tesla (7T) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system

The Weizmann Institute’s human 7T MRI scanner is the first such instrument in Israel and one of only about 60 in operation worldwide. The system is the height of what is currently possible—and safe—for use in humans.

According to Prof. Sobel, who spoke at the dedication, the 7T “is, to my knowledge, the largest single investment by the Israeli government in a piece of scientific equipment, and was matched with the generosity of the Azrieli gift. We now will have the capacity to see much smaller structures in the human brain in much shorter time frames—creating far higher scientific potential than ever before. For instance, before this, we couldn’t see neurotransmitters in the brain. Now we can. So now the onus is on us to generate the science.”

“One of the most exciting things about this new piece of equipment and this Institute is that they will be utilized nationally, across Israel, enabling collaboration in brain science,” said Naomi Azrieli. “We have confidence that the 7-Tesla will help scientists break in to new frontiers, and we are honored to be part of this expedition.”

Brain images

Prof. John Gabrieli of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research was the guest speaker at the event.

Prof. Noam Sobel is supported by Fondation Adelis, the Norman and Helen Asher Center for Human Brain Imaging, the Nadia Jaglom Laboratory for the Research in the Neurobiology of Olfaction, the Rob and Cheryl McEwen Fund for Brain Research, and the European Research Council. He heads the Azrieli National Institute for Human Brain Imaging and Research and the Carl and Micaela Einhorn-Dominic Institute for Brain Research. Prof. Sobel is the incumbent of the Sara and Michael Sela Professorial Chair of Neurobiology.

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