Researchers at the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering are reducing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan time to 15 minutes by using multiplexed sensitivity-encoding (MUSE), a technology that eliminates many of the time-consuming elements of MRI.

The group of researchers led by Nan-kaei Chen, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, were awarded a $2.1 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to create faster MRI scans that will be beneficial to patients who struggle to lay still in the machine for 40 minutes to an hour. The five- year project specifically targets children and Parkinson’s disease patients, as their tremor symptoms can make the scanning process unbearable.

The grant will also allow Dr. Chen and his team to create higher-resolution images. “We want to address the boundaries of existing MRI protocol,” said Dr. Chen. “With this research, MRI scans will be faster and higher quality and will produce richer information, so we can be better informed on the stage of disease or will even be able to see if there’s any brain signal abnormality before the disease is diagnosed. With earlier detection, we might be able to delay the disease’s progress.”

The key component to generating faster and more detailed images is MUSE, a process developed by Dr. Chen himself. Enhanced MUSE diminishes motion artifact and integrates various forms of MRI data like statistics on iron levels, gray matter volume, and white matter connectivity. MUSE also has a “denoising” technique to reduce noise that comes with long-exposure images.