Auburn University MRI Research Center

Improving Health Care

Inducted in 2015

Opened in November 2010, the Auburn University MRI Research Center advances critical technology required to solve complicated medical challenges, meets society’s health care needs and improves economic growth in Alabama.

The $20 million, 45,000-square-foot facility houses two of the most powerful research and clinical magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scanners in the world. The Siemens Verio open-bore 3 Tesla scanner is the most powerful MRI certified by the Federal Drug Administration for clinical and research use. The Siemens 7 Tesla MRI scanner is the nation’s third actively shielded, whole-body scanner and is one of only three 7T scanners located in the Southeast and one of less than 20 such scanners in the United States. The center has carved a niche for Auburn University and the state of Alabama with capabilities few share.

Most MRI scanners are in medical schools, managed by medical personnel using standard 1.5T MRI scanners for clinical use. Auburn’s facility sits in the Auburn University Research Park and is overseen by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, whose researchers work with partners on cardiovascular disease, neuroscience, biomedical engineering and MRI technology. Also, the center’s capabilities attract prominent faculty, enhancing research at Auburn and internationally.

Using the MRI scanners at the center, Auburn engineering researchers are working with counterparts at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine in a federally funded study of how dog’s brains process smells in an effort to improve training of detector dogs and study how a dog’s brain reacts to human emotions.

Auburn researchers from engineering and psychology work with the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory in Fort Rucker, Alabama, and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to study the structures and activity of the brains of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in an attempt to better understand post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Auburn is also partners with The University of Alabama at Birmingham in a project to improve detection of early onset schizophrenia. In another partnership with UAB, the MRI Research Center provides the core for patient-centered studies on specific types of heart disease.

The center enhances health care in the region as specialized engineers in the center work alongside clinicians and scholars in a unique environment. Leased space in the center is devoted to area medical clinicians, including a neurosurgeon specializing in minimally-invasive management of brain tumors along with brain and spinal cord trauma, an orthopedics and sports medicine practice and an outpatient physical therapy group.

The innovative solutions in imaging developed at the MRI Center will be commercialized through partnerships in the private sector, which will provide jobs for the state. The center is advancing healthcare of the citizens of Alabama and is realizing such a large economic impact that Auburn University should recover the state’s initial investment in six years.

Construction of the center was managed by Brasfield & Gorrie; Perkins+Will was the architect of record; and LBYD was the lead civil and structural engineering firm. Newcomb & Boyd provided plumbing, mechanical and electrical engineering.

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