Iseult, the most powerful MRI in the world, unveils its first images in France

It was in the laboratories of the Atomic Energy Commission that the Iseult MRI delivered its first images of human brains.



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The Iseult MRI, the most powerful in the world.  (YANN AUDIC / CEA)

It’s a world first and it took place in France! The most powerful MRI scanner in the world has delivered its first images of human brains. These are the most precise images ever taken, and revealed on Tuesday April 2.

No need to be specialists to understand this scientific advance. It’s obvious ! At a glance you can see the difference with a brain image produced by a traditional MRI. It’s a bit like going from a blurry photo to a clear image, explains Nicolas Boulant, research director at the CEA, atomic energy commission: “With these images, we can see quite breathtaking details which tell us about anatomical details such as veins or cortical layers which are unreachable at lower magnetic fields. We could match this performance at three teslas – that is to say say in a clinical setting -, but in this case it would be necessary to acquire data for several hours. Which makes this approach incompatible in the clinic when people are lying down and we ask them not to move.”

The Iseult MRI, the most powerful in the world.  (YANN AUDIC / CEA)

These images were therefore produced by Iseult. This is the name of this MRI installed on the Saclay plateau, near Paris, in the CEA laboratories. This extraordinary magnet reached a magnetic field of 11.7 Tesla. It’s a world record. This makes it possible to obtain images ten times more precise than those provided by MRIs found in hospitals and which do not exceed three teslas.

Better understand how the human brain works

First, the researchers tested Isolde by placing pumpkins inside. They only moved to the human brain in recent months thanks to around twenty volunteers who got inside the device. A cylinder five meters long and 132 tonnes. The researchers were able to prove that the magnetic field had no harmful effects on health.

They will now be able to improve their knowledge of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or better understand psychiatric illnesses: “Lithium, for example, is used as a drug to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Its action, however, is not very well understood. So Iseult, with its unparalleled sensitivity, will be able to further probe the distribution of this agent to better understand his role.” And the researchers will first continue their observations with healthy patients before studying, within a few years, the brains of sick patients.

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