Seeing is one thing; touching is another. Whereas conventional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) allows us to see anatomy and pathology, MRE allows us to non-invasively ‘feel’ inside the living body, measure its mechanical properties and objectively provide descriptions such as hard, soft, elastic, viscous, etc. Presently, however, there are only a few MRE research groups worldwide and application of MRE to study the human brain only began in earnest in 2008. The new PhD studentship will be the first time MRE has been applied to study the new born and developing brain.

The MRE research group in Edinburgh was established in 2009 with the aim of developing MRE as an imaging modality with sufficiently high resolution to be conveniently and routinely employed in Clinical Radiology reporting. We have assembled state of the art facilities including the pneumatic Resoundant system offered commercially for performing liver MRE, and a research-based mechanical actuator system provided via collaboration with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany and which we have applied extensively in multi-frequency MRE studies of muscle function and recovery from muscle injury. These systems are complemented by the development in Edinburgh of state of the art image processing software for analysis of multi-frequency MRE data including patented algorithms for performing Super-resolution MRE.

A previous PhD studentship has focused on optimizing the application of the above resources to provide early diagnosis and prognosis of dementia and has incorporated use of a head pillow and spiral MRE pulse sequence for acquisition of high resolution brain MRE data, via respective collaborations with Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, USA and Beckman Institute, University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, USA.

The aim of the new PhD studentship is to pioneer the application of MRE to study the neonatal brain. Initially, via theoretical studies and investigations of test objects and phantoms we will develop protocols that will be completely safe to apply in the study of the developing brain. Subsequently, we will apply the new Super-resolution MRE technique with a particular focus on providing detailed quantification of the effects of preterm birth on brain mechanical properties. In collaboration between Neonatology, Radiology, Physics and Imaging Science this information will be used to support the development of therapeutic interventions to promote healthy growth and full attainment of potential.

For details of this project with Prof Neil Roberts, Dr Eric Barnhill, Dr James Boardman, and Prof Edwin van Beek, go to

The deadline for application is 31 August 2016