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Making MR scanners more patient-friendly

Professor Penny Gowland and Dr Paul Glover have worked to understand the physiological effects of electromagnetic fields generated in MR scanners, and have enabled the continued operation of this type of scanner across Europe, safeguarding its access for 500 million people

The issue

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, has a wide range of applications in medical diagnosis. But the physiological effects of the electromagnetic fields generated in MRI are not fully understood.

Exposure to high magnetic fields can lead human subjects to experience sensations such as magnetic field-induced vertigo, metallic taste and visual disturbance. These effects have been suggested as a barrier to the operation of high-field magnetic resonance scanners which have been developed, in part, at The University of Nottingham.

The research

Research at the University has provided advances in the fundamental understanding of the relevant underlying physiological processes. Professor Penny Gowland, Dr Paul Glover and their team have shown that exposure to static magnetic fields in and around MR scanners can produce measureable effects on the vestibular, visual and taste systems. The team has measured and characterised the circumstances when these effects take place.

They have also demonstrated the ability to measure very low frequency surface electric fields in a human subject exposed to the magnetic fields of a magnetic resonance scanner.

The impact

This research has been used by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, the UK Health Protection Agency and the EU Commission. Findings have enabled the continued operation of MR scanners across Europe, ensuring the continued access to MRI for 500 million people. The economic benefits arising from the manufacture of MRI equipment were also secured, and our work has resulted in considerable impact on public policy, the economy and healthcare.


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