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Nebraska Puts 3T MRI Scanner In Stadium

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An almost-finished expansion of the University of Nebraska‘s Memorial Stadium, home of the Cornhuskers football team, includes a Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior. The CB3, as it’s called, features a radiology unit and a Siemens MAGNETOM Skyra 3 tesla MRI scanner.

The $55 million stadium addition will also house 38 luxury suites, plus less-elegant seating for 6,000 more. It’s scheduled to open this month.

A 100-foot skywalk links the CB3 to the university’s new Athletic Performance Lab, dedicated to maximizing performance and minimizing injuries for athletes. CB3, a collaboration between the athletic and academic sides of the university, has a broader focus. One goal is to find better ways to diagnose and treat head injuries. And one of the main tools will be functional MRI brain imaging with the new scanner, which cost a reported $3 million. (The scanner will also be used on game days to assess injuries.)

“There’s no question it’s going to move the dial forward,” said Brian Hainline, MD, speaking of the CB3’s research. Dr. Hainline is chief medical officer for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He added:

The big, hoped-for dream would be, let’s have a biomarker in brain imaging. If you’re to the left of that, you’re safe. If you’re to the right of it, you’re not. That’s probably a few years out. But functional brain imaging and blood flow are going to be a very important part of that.

Dr. Hainline was quoted last week in an Associated Press story by the estimable Eric Olson (a colleague of your humble correspondent’s at the Omaha World-Herald in the 1980s).

Nebraska recruited brain-imaging expert Dennis Molfese, PhD, from the University of Louisville to design, equip, and direct CB3. “There has been great concussion research that’s been going on for decades,” Dr. Molfese said. “It’s disconcerting to realize just how little we really know.”

Dr. Molfese said he hopes to have an EEG-based sideline concussion tester ready within a year or two. An electrode net over a player’s head would measure response to stimuli.

“We can get an idea of what area of the brain is being involved in the process, whether the speed of processing is at the rate it should be,” Dr. Molfese said. “The different areas of the brain that normally integrate information quickly stop doing that, so that’s another way we should be able to pick up whether there is an injury or not.”

Eventually, he said, hospital emergency departments could use the device to test patients suspected of having traumatic brain injury. “It would be routine,” he said, “and they’d know within 10 minutes.”

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Only half the parents of children with head injuries at two Canadian emergency departments knew that a head CT scan potentially increased the risk of cancer. To learn what happened after full disclosure of the risk estimate, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 21 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Neuro and Musculoskeletal Imaging

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