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The new scanning technique could someday prove useful in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions in which fluids get blocked from flowing through the brain. One such condition is hydrocephalus, in which excess fluid builds up in the cavities of the brain, said Samantha Holdsworth, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, research director at Mātai, a New Zealand research center with a focus on medical imaging, and co-author on both studies.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to really prove its clinical application … but that’s the nature of all new technology,” she said. “We’re just sort of at the beginnings of what can be achieved.”
To create the new scanning technique, the team started with basic MRI, which uses strong magnets to apply a magnetic field to the body. In response, the hydrogen nuclei within water molecules in the body all line up with this magnetic field.
The scanner then releases a radio-frequency current that stimulates the hydrogen nuclei, causing them to pull out of alignment. When that radio-frequency current switches off, all of the nuclei snap back into position, but they do so at different rates depending on what kind of tissue surrounds them. Each nucleus releases a radio signal when it pops back into alignment, and the machine picks up this signal and uses it to create an image.
By applying multiple magnetic fields to the body, MRI can also be used to create 3D images, which can be viewed from multiple angles, Live Science previously reported.