Image formation by induced local interactions: examples employing nuclear magnetic resonance in Nature 242, 1973, pp. 190–191

FIRST EDITION OF THE NOBEL PRIZE WINNING PAPER IN WHICH LAUTERBUR HIS INVENTION AND GENERATION OF THE FIRST MRI (Magnetic Resonance Images). Lauterbur is known as the father of the MRI, an invention whose benefits can hardly be overstated.

Working in 1973 at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the American chemist Paul Lauterbur “developed a way to generate the first MRI in 2D and 3D, using gradients” (Nature Physics Portal). In this paper, Lauterbur describes his imaging technique – one that removed the usual resolution limits due to the wavelength of the imaging field.

To do this, “[Lauterbur] used two fields: one interacting with the object under investigation, the other restricting this interaction to a small region. Rotation of the fields relative to the object produces a series of one-dimensional projections of the interacting regions, from which two- or three-dimensional images of their spatial distribution can be reconstructed” (ibid). I

mage formation, then, involves “a point in an object characterized through its joint interaction with two external fields. The method is demonstrated by producing images of two water-filled glass capillaries using NMR techniques.

“First a linear magnetic field gradient is imposed on the object, and then the protons of the water are also exposed to a radio frequency (RF) field. Since the expected resonance frequency and relaxation times of the proton depend on the local magnetic field, the gradient creates a spatial ‘scan’ of the NMR properties of the object. If the direction of the gradient is rotated relative to the object, a MRI can be built up” (Gedeon, Science and Technology in Medicine, 499).

Lauterbur shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Mansfield for discoveries concerning MRI. Item #1556

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