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The first magnetic resonance imaging MRI
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The first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

June 2, 2010
The first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of a live human body (a cross section of the live human chest). National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported fundamental research led to the development of MRI technology. [One of three related images. See Next Image.]

More about this Image Fundamental research supported by the NSF led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Today, MRI technology is widely used in hospitals for purposes like detecting tumors and internal tissue damage in patients and investigating differences in brain tissue.

MRI technology works like this. An MRI imager surrounds a patient with magnets. The magnetic field created by the magnets causes atomic nuclei in the patient's body to line up parallel to the field. A coil in the imager jars the nuclei with radio waves. They resonate, producing a faint radio signal that a computer amplifies and translates into an image. Unlike x-rays or CAT scans, MRI lets doctors distinguish blood vessels from malignant tissue. (Year of image: 1977)