Sherbooke research Centre completes cutting-edge brain scanner

Sherbooke research Centre completes cutting-edge brain scanner

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative


The CIUSSS de l’Estrie-CHUS Research Centre has completed a world class brain scanner, which produces brain images possessing at a level of detail that has never been seen before. The Record visited the Center and spoke with project leader Dr. Roger Lecomte and research engineer Jean-François Beaudoin to get a higher resolution picture of what has been accomplished.

“The new machine is a scanner to study the brain,” Lecomte began, using nuclear medicine methods like radioactive tracers. These specially formed radioactive tracers are injected into the body and accumulate in the areas (like the brain) to which they are targeted, he continued. They allow the machine to take very detailed pictures used by doctors to observe and diagnose diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer, amongst others. This new machine has been specially optimized for high-resolution images, Lacomte explained.

The technology was first developed for use on small animals, he said. “We took the same platform and adapted it to a larger scanner,” he went on. Increasing the size of the technology increases its complexity and cost. Previously, such a scanner would have been simply too expensive to make, but now technology has advanced such that it can be made “at a reasonable price.” The detectors the machine uses comprise 80 to 85 per cent of its cost, he noted.

Lacomte emphasized that the major challenge of the project was integrating the electronics into the machine. The very first scanner they built had 512 channels with very large server racks to process all its signals. This newest scanner has 129,000 channels, which, using the older server rack technology, would have taken up too much space. The advanced, integrated circuit they are using in their newest machine, which they themselves developed, is the most complex in Canada. “Everything [in this machine] has been made specifically [for this machine],” Lacomte explained, designed exactly for its unique applications.

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