First cutting-edge equipment installed at new brain research facility

An advanced scanner that could help scientists better understand brain activity and human behaviour has been installed at a new Plymouth research facility. 

The Siemens Prisma MRI scanner is the first piece of machinery installed in the Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC) – a multimillion pound facility currently under construction at Plymouth Science Park. 

BRIC is a collaboration between the University of Plymouth, the research charity DDRC Healthcare and University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHPNT), and is set to build on the University’s leading expertise in brain and the mind. 

The BRIC MRI scanner will be equipped with multiple additional brain imaging technologies, to provide the first multi-modal MRI facility in the region. This means it is capable of measuring signals simultaneously from more than one imaging technique – allowing researchers to gather more data more quickly than with just one scan. 

At BRIC, the scanner will be used to explore a variety of topics including how the human brain encodes socially relevant information to guide our decisions, and how the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain work together – known as interhemispheric interaction. 

The MRI scanner will be the centrepiece of one of seven laboratories based at BRIC, with the other six focusing on different but connected aspects of brain function, from motor control to brain stimulation.

Set to open for research in early 2021, BRIC will welcome postgraduate students in human neuroscience for teaching sessions in the next academic year.

Brain Research & Imaging Centre MRI scanner installation

The Siemens Prisma MRI scanner is the first piece of machinery installed in BRIC, and the first multi-modal scanner in the South West region

  • Crane lifting the machinery

  • The scanner had to be installed via the roof

  • The scanner going into the building

  • The teams marking the scanner's installation

Professor Stephen Hall, Director of BRIC and Professor of Human Neuroimaging at the University of Plymouth, said: 

“The installation of our new Siemens Prisma MRI scanner is an exciting milestone in the development of the Brain Research & Imaging Centre. As the first in a series of cutting-edge technologies to arrive at the facility, it is an excellent reminder that the University of Plymouth will soon open the doors to a world-class brain research centre. It is a privilege to be part of the collaborative partnership with University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and DDRC Healthcare to bring this project to life.”

Dr Matt Roser, MRI Laboratory Co-Lead at BRIC and Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Plymouth, said: 

"As a researcher interested in neural processes of reasoning and how the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain work together – known as interhemispheric interaction – I’m very excited to soon be working on our own MRI scanner. I’m even more excited by the possibility for integrating my research in basic neuroscience with the applied clinical experience of our partners.”

Dr Nadège Bault, MRI Laboratory Co-Lead at BRIC and Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Plymouth, said: 

“The new MRI scanner and its very advanced technology will open up multiple research opportunities. I will be exploring how our brain combines different types of information to make a decision. I am especially interested in understanding the influence of social factors on decision mechanisms, and the high resolution of the scanner will give me the power to visualise functional brain activity as the decision unfolds.”

Dr Peter Wright, Director of Healthcare Science and Technology at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, said: 

“This exciting venture of state-of-the-art imaging technologies and leading researchers means the Brain Research & Imaging Centre will not only allow for world class research, with the collaboration between the University of Plymouth and the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust there will be the ability for seamless knowledge transfer from the research to the clinical domain, benefiting patients now and in the future.”

Professor Gary Smerdon, DDRC Healthcare Chief Executive, said: 

“The installation of the MRI scanner is a milestone for new facilities being developed at DDRC Healthcare. The Brain Research & Imaging Centre forms a significant part of the development and consolidates DDRC Healthcare’s close working relationship with the University of Plymouth and the NHS locally through UHPNT. Research is at the forefront of our charitable objectives and the co-location of hyperbaric facilities and brain research expertise with state-of-the-art equipment will allow us advance studies of the relationship between oxygen and the brain which are at the forefront of hyperbaric medicine.”

Brain Research & Imaging Centre

The Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC), the most advanced multi-modal brain imaging facility in the South West, will provide the sea-change to enhance the quality of our research in human neuroscience.

With seven cutting-edge human research laboratories, BRIC will include an MRI suite with the most advanced 3-Tesla scanner in the region. It will critically advance our enquiry toward the most advanced brain research, improved radiological diagnostics and better patient care.

Find out more about the facility