The Center for MR Research at UIC was initiated as an institution-wide program to focus research efforts towards a center of excellence in imaging with a 10 year horizon. Magnetic resonance research is rapidly expanding, especially in the area of high field. The goals for the program include fostering involvement of all departments in using these state-of-the-art imaging facilities for research generated in each of these disciplines. A core faculty of MR scientists has been recruited to develop the new technology. Recruitments in other departments are oriented to add additional expertise in areas of applications in neuroradiology, psychiatry, neurology, neurosurgery and cardiology. Outside the College of Medicine, other departments in engineering and basic sciences are already participating. A support staff of research MR technologists, and a research manager facilitate research by all investigators, across campuses.

Job Openings

Business Manager

The University of Illinois at Chicago is seeking to fill the position of Business Administrative Associate (Business Manager) for the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) of the College of Medicine. The Business Manager will provide expert administration of business, human resources, and financial matters, involving review, analysis, and formulation of recommendations to enhance the operational effectiveness and financial health.

Postdoctoral Fellows

The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR), University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago is seeking two enthusiastic individuals as Postdoctoral Fellows. The first position will focus on developing novel pulse sequences and advanced image reconstruction algorithms for imaging cancer or neurological disorders. The second position will focus on breast cancer imaging using advanced diffusion MR techniques and exploring their applications in characterizing breast tissue properties. Both positions will be funded by the NIH and other sources. The initial appointment will be for two years with possible renewal upon mutual agreement. The candidates for both positions are expected to have an earned PhD in physics, medical physics, biophysics, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, or a related field within the last three years. Additional qualifications include a solid understanding of MRI physics, experience with pulse sequence development on human MRI scanners, and computer programming skills. Preference will be given to candidates with experience in diffusion imaging, fast imaging, or cancer imaging.

Volunteers Needed

Volunteers are needed for research programs:

Enrollment Period: 12-03-2017 – open

The Center for MR Research – 3T Program is looking for volunteers to be imaged on our GE MR750 MRI Scanner. We are working on new MR imaging techniques to improve the quality of existing imaging strategies as well as reducing the overall scan time.

Enrollment Period: 04-21-2020 – 04-21-2021

The Center for MR Research – 3T Program is looking for volunteers to be imaged on our GE MR750 MRI Scanner. We are focusing on imaging the pancreas within the abdomen and optimizing current scanning techniques.

Active Research

SPEEDI MRI

Sub-millisecond temporal resolution

In the SPEEDI method a series of acquisition is collected with each readout point assigned to a different k-space. Under the assumption that FID acquisition is synchronized with a cyclic event, a series of time-resolved images are assembled with a sampling rate equal to the dwell time.

The echo train version – where a full echo is collected instead of a single point – has been developed, both in gradient echo and spin echo framework. Reduced field of view and k-t undersampling have also been implemented. Applications range from very short eddy current measurement to cardiac valve motion monitoring.

Advanced Diffusion-Weighted Imaging with Fractional Order Calculus (FROC) and Continuous-time Random Walk (CTRW) Models

Given the heterogeneous nature of biological tissues which exhibit a high degree of structural heterogeneity and complexity, it is well known that water diffusion in tissues does not follow a Gaussian distribution. The FROC diffusion model captures this tissue complexity by for characterizing not only the diffusion process itself (D), but also the tissue structures (β and μ) through which water molecules diffuse.  The CTRW diffusion model, which is an extension to the FROC model, recognizes intravoxel diffusion heterogeneity in both time (i.e., water molecules can take a variable amount of time to make a move, which we call “water trapping”) and space (i.e., water molecules can diffuse with drastically different free length, which we call “water jumping”). These diffusion heterogeneities (α and β) can directly reflect intravoxel structural heterogeneity, which is related to tissue complexity and microenvironment.

Our group has been investigating the feasibility of FROC and CTRW diffusion models  in probing the underlying tissue characteristics in different disease conditions and organs, including adult and pediatric brain tumors, gastric cancer,  and bladder cancer.

3D-rFOVI isotropic high spatial resolution and reduced image distortion

The proposed 3D-rFOVI technique takes advantage of a 2D RF pulse to excite a slab along the conventional slice-selection direction (i.e., z-direction) while limiting the spatial extent along the phase-encoded direction (i.e., y-direction) within the slab. The slab is phase-encoded in both through-slab and in-slab phase-encoded directions. The 3D-rFOVI technique was implemented at 3T in gradient-echo and spin-echo EPI pulse sequences for functional MRI (fMRI) and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), respectively. 3D-rFOVI experiments were performed on a phantom and human brain to illustrate image distortion reduction, as well as isotropic high spatial resolution, in comparison with 3D full- FOV imaging.

IP-SMS MRI

high spatial resolution and reduced image distortion

The proposed IP-SMS technique takes advantage of periodic replicates of the excitation profile of a 2D-RF pulse to simultaneously excite multiple segments within a slice. These segments were acquired over a reduced FOV and separated using a joint GRAPPA reconstruction by leveraging virtual coils that combined the physical coil sensitivity and 2D-RF pulse spatial response. Two excitations were used with complementary spatial response profiles to adequately cover a full FOV, producing a full-FOV image that had the benefits of reduced FOV with high spatial resolution and reduced distortion.

Fast fMRI with high spatial resolution in a small brain volume

This project aims to develop fast fMRI acquisition (volume TR < 1 sec) techniques for imaging a small brain area with high spatial resolutions (< 2 mm). Currently, simultaneous multi-slice EPI (SMS-EPI) is the mainstream acquisition technique used in fast fMRI studies.  However, the image quality of SMS-EPI can be substantially degraded when imaging a small brain volume (e.g., visual cortex) because the receiver coil cannot provide enough sensitivity variations for effectively separating the aliased voxels. In this study, we develop a new fast fMRI acquisition technique that integrates the (k, t)-space undersampling method into the three-dimension reduced field-of-view imaging (3D-rFOVI). Through human fMRI experiments in the visual cortex, we demonstrate that the k-t 3D-rFOVI technique can achieve a volume TR of 800-millisecond and spatial resolution of 1.5-mm-isotropic in fMRI data acquisition over a focused imaging area (192 x 96 x 48 mm3). More importantly, k-t 3D-rFOVI provides higher fMRI image quality than SMS-EPI and considerably improves the detection sensitivity of brain activations.

More research activities

Archived News

Year 2021

The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), together with 12 other institutions across the nation, was awarded an NIH grant to study the Acute to Chronic Pain Signatures (A2CPS). As a major MRI performing site of the First Multisite Clinical Center (MCC1) in the A2CPS consortium, the CMRR of UIC is responsible for developing, harmonizing, and overseeing MRI research protocols for all MCC1 sites, including Northshore Health System, University of Chicago, and UIC. Dr. X. Joe Zhou, Professor of Radiology, Neurosurgery and Bioengineering, will lead this effort with substantial contributions from other CMRR faculty and staff (Dr. Qingfei Luo, Dr. Muge Karaman, Dr. Kezhou Wang, Mike Flannery, and Hagai Ganin). Rush University Medical Center is the hub institution of MCC1 under the leaderships of Drs. John Burns, Asokumar Buvanendran, and Joshua Jacobs. The MCC1 is funded by a $6.6M NIH UM1 grant (UM1 NS112874-01) from the Office of the NIH Director. Drs. Burns, Buvanendran, Jacobs, and Zhou serve as the Multi-Principal Investigators (MPI) of this grant with approximately one third of its budget allocated to UIC (https://a2cps.org/consortium/directory/). This project is further supported by an administrative supplement (UM1 NS112874-01S1).

For most people, pain goes away as soon as the injury that caused it heals. For some people, however, acute pain from an injury, surgery, or disease can linger, eventually becoming chronic pain that can last for years or even for a lifetime. Currently, a high proportion of people in the United States transition to chronic pain after an acute pain event, and this has been a contributing factor to the current opioid epidemic.

The A2CPS program will collect data from 3,600 people who have recently had surgery or musculoskeletal injury; and will track them for a 6-month period. The goal is to develop a set of biomarkers, or “signatures”, that can predict whether a person will transition to chronic pain or be resilient. These signatures use measurements, including those from a patient’s genetics, genomics, inflammation, metabolic pathways, brain structure, and brain function. These will be combined with advanced statistical and artificial intelligence approaches to create a measure that predicts whether an individual person is likely to develop chronic pain. This measure will allow researchers to develop better, more individualized treatments for patients and better understand the biological bases of pain. This initiative is funded through the National Institutes of Health Common Fund, which supports cross-cutting programs that are expected to have exceptionally high impact.

Additional information can be found at https://a2cps.org/.

Year 2018

Center News Letters