Young Investigator Awards add luster to MRI’s scientific stars

April 30, 2008

Sophisticated pulse sequence developments and practical applications for diffusion imaging dominated the work of finalists selected for the ISMRM’s 2008 Young Investigator Awards.

Sophisticated pulse sequence developments and practical applications for diffusion imaging dominated the work of finalists selected for the ISMRM's 2008 Young Investigator Awards.

The number of applications doubled this year, said Debiao Li, Ph.D., chair of the Young Investigator Award committee. Forty-four applications were received. Thirty-eight abstracts dealing with basic research themes were submitted for a possible Rabi award, six studies involving clinical research were filed for Moore Award consideration, and three applications were unspecified, Li said.

The Rabi award recognizes achievements in basic scientific research, especially focusing on novel technical developments, according to Li. Submissions all involve MR physics, chemistry, or engineering and often employ ex vivo, phantom, or animal testing. The award honors Nobel laureate Isidor I. Rabi. He discovered that atomic nuclei show their presence by absorbing or emitting radio waves when exposed to a strong magnetic field. His finding in the late 1930s was essential to the invention of MRI three decades later.

The Moore award emphasizes research that has direct clinical implications or tests the efficacy of applications already in clinical use. It recognizes the pioneering work of William B. Moore, who contributed to MRI's early clinical development at the University of Nottingham in England.

Two of the three finalists for the Rabi Awards involved radiofrequency pulse design and hardware, a hot topic among MRI physicists.

Priti Balchandani and colleagues from Stanford University developed the slice-selective tunable-flip adiabatic low peak-power excitation (STABLE) pulse (Abstract 177). Adiabatic excitation pulses are valued for their ability to create a uniform RF field. The pulse's relatively low power consumption, compared with similar sequences, could stir interest in its adoption for high-field imaging, Li said.

Riccardo Lattanzi and colleagues from the division of health sciences and technology at Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology described a theoretical framework for calculating the lowest possible susceptible artifact and the optimal current patterns for parallel transmission and shimming (Abstract 614).

The third finalists, Björn Kreher, Irina Mader, and Valerij G. Kiselev of the University of Freiburg used a phantom study to demonstrate how the Gibbs tracking method overcomes problems inherent in the accepted technique for tracking neuronal pathways with fiber tractography (Abstract 425). Conventional methods reconstruct long neuronal pathways in small successive steps. That approach sets up the possibility of mistaking one tract for another. The Gibbs methods takes into account the totality of the signal to increase the accuracy of the reconstructed crossing and spreading fibers, according to the authors.

All the candidates for a Moore Award deal with the various clinical applications of diffusion imaging, Li said.

Using EEG-fMRI, Dr. Su Li, a radiologist at West China Hospital of Sichuan in the People's Republic of China, found that the diffusion patterns for epilepsy patients with generalized seizures were markedly different than the patterns for patients with partial seizures (Abstract 24). The variation may explain why generalized seizure patients have more severely impaired concentration and memory problems in the interictal period than partial seizure patients, he wrote.

Chemist Junqian Gordon Xu, Ph.D., and colleagues from the radiology, pathology, and surgical departments of Washington University in St. Louis, uncovered a correlation between MRI diffusion tensor imaging of prostate cancer and benign tissue within the glandular capsule and histological findings among 12 patients who underwent radical prostatectomy (Abstract 163).

The third Moore Award finalists built on the University of Virginia radiology department's experimental experience with hyperpolarized diffusion MRI for pulmonary applications. Chengbo Wang, Ph.D., now an MR physicist at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, and former colleagues at UVA found the gas-enhanced diffusion technique accurately identified differences in the lung microstructure for 14 asthma patients, nine patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and 14 healthy controls (Abstract 393).