Two Glasgow businesses are behind new brain scanning technology that could lead to ground-breaking research into brain disorders such as schizophrenia.

The next-generation MRI scanners are being developed for the University of California Berkeley and will allow doctors and scientists to see the brain in greater detail than ever before. Wideblue is a medical device product consultancy and fellow Glasgow business MR Coilech is a leader in high-density MRI head coil development.

Results of images produced by the university using the high power MRI scanners have been published in the prestigious peer reviewed journal Nature Methods. The paper reports that the new design achieves up to a tenfold better resolution for functional MRI brain imaging. Brain disorders that could be examined more closely include degenerative diseases, schizophrenia and developmental areas such as autism spectrum disorders.

The lead researcher at Berkeley, David Feinberg, said: “The NexGen 7T scanner is a new tool that allows us to look at the brain circuitry underlying different diseases of the brain with higher spatial resolution, and therefore to perform human neuroscience research at higher granularity. This puts UC Berkeley at the forefront of human neuroimaging research. The ultra-high resolution scanner will allow research on underlying changes in brain circuitry in a multitude of brain disorders, including degenerative diseases, schizophrenia and developmental disorders.”

Wideblue was responsible for the detailed mechanical design to fit up to 96 radio frequency (RF) sensor coils into the space normally occupied by 32 RF sensor coils found in standard MRI scanners. The electronics were designed by MR Coiltech and the equipment was assembled and tested at the company’s premises at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Shajan Gunanmony, chief executive of MR Coiltech, said “We are delighted with the design work undertaken by Wideblue. This is a very complex 3D advanced electronics product and achieving 96 channels within such a small space was a real challenge. The resulting image quality obtained with our product at the University of California Berkeley speaks for itself and the university is at the forefront of research anywhere in the world.”