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Published on 3 January 2022

NeuroSpin is a research center built to develop and validate neuroimaging using ultra-high Magnetic Field headed by Dr. Denis Le Bihan, a Member of the French Academy of Sciences.  It was opened on January 1st 2007. The center is recognized as a large infrastructure, for biomedical imaging, such as the CERN in Genève. It is a shared imaging facility with unique imaging devices,. An 11.7T MRI scanner for human will be installed in 2016, one of the first in the world.

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, ...)
  • Translational research for neurological and psychiatric disorders​

Four Research units

Neurospin is organized five research units 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)
  • The Neurofunctional Imaging Group (GIN)-UMR5296, a research unit installed in Bordeaux.

Research platform

The NeuroSpin platform (managed by Jean-Robert Deverre) has nearly 11000 m² of laboratories, offices, technical facilities, and conference areas. This platform consists of both a clinical facility for hosting human volunteers 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. 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 the CEA expertise in magnet and NMR technology, NeuroSpin is equipped with unique MRI systems operating at ultra-high magnetic field (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 can be exploited for the imaging. 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.

Neurospin was conceived 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.  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.