Magnetic Resonance Imaging Unit Dedicated to MRI research and neuroscience applications since 1993

The MRI Unit, or MRU, provides research imaging services to neuroscience investigators within the McGill community and beyond. Faculty and staff of the MRU offer decades of experience in MRI pulse sequence physics, RF coil design, specialized instrumentation, and research technologist support. Scanners operated by the Unit include high-end clinical research scanners at 3 and 7 tesla, as well as a preclinical 7 tesla scanner. Thanks to the expertise and dedication of its staff, the MRU plays a critical role in research activities ranging from basic neuroscience to industry-sponsored clinical trials. The Unit also serves as a hub for the development of new MRI technologies, and features the first whole-body 7T MRI scanner in Canada. The powerful magnetic field of this new scanner is already providing researchers with unprecedented views of the brain and spinal cord.

While the MRU strives to offer cutting-edge technology to our research users, we place the highest priority on the safety and comfort of our research participants.


Large-bore Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The BIC houses two research dedicated large-bore MRI scanners: a 3T Siemens Prisma and a 7T Terra (2018). Both systems are fully equipped for brain and spine research imaging and spectroscopy studies. We have also the capacity to train and image fully-awake non-human primates. Basic physiological monitoring and comprehensive visual and auditory stimulus delivery systems are available to all researchers. Our team has experience conducting a wide range of studies for all researchers (from MRI-novice to experts), including with young children participants and experiments requiring full anesthesia.

Small-animal MRI

We offer access and expertise to run small-animal MRI on a dedicated 7-T Bruker Pharmascan scanner. The unit provides high-resolution structural, functional, and molecular MR images.

MRI Primer

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is used by doctors and scientists to make very detailed images of internal organs such as the brain. An MRI scanner is built around a very strong magnet that causes atomic nuclei, mainly hydrogen in tissue water (the "H" in "H2O"), to align along the magnetic field. The MRI scanner's powerful magnet is built like a big donut, and the long tunnel where the patient lies is in the centre of the donut where the magnetic field is strongest.

The alignment of hydrogen nuclei cannot be seen or felt, but it allows the tissue water to be probed using precisely tuned radio waves. Somewhat like ringing a bell, the aligned nuclei may be "struck" with a pulse of radio energy and the resultant "ringing" recorded by the scanner to provide information about internal structures. The "ringing" is not really a sound, but rather another tiny radio wave emitted by the tissues. The radio frequency (RF) pulse used to "strike" the nuclei is generated using an "RF coil" that is also used to receive the resultant radio "ringing". The RF coil is an accessory that must be plugged into the scanner to image a particular body part, and is usually shaped so as to comfortably accommodate that part of a patient (it doesn't look like a coil).

If you've had an MRI scan before, you would have noticed it's quite loud and might suppose that the sounds comes from the "striking" and "ringing" of nuclei mentioned above. However, the radio waves involved are extremely weak and produce no sound whatsoever. What many people describe as the "banging" of an MRI is actually caused by "gradient" electromagnets mounted within the donut-shaped main magnet. The gradient magnets are not large or powerful as the main magnet, but when switched on they cause the magnetic field to vary with position (hence the name "gradient"). The banging heard is from the gradient electromagnets being turned on and off very quickly, acting like a loudspeaker within the powerful main magnet. Although they are very noisy, the gradient electromagnets are what enables an MRI scanner to assign a position to the radio waves emitted by tissues.

So to summarize, an MRI takes pictures by aligning atomic nuclei in the body, exciting them with a pulse of radio energy, and then localizing the resultant radio waves from tissues using spatially varying magnetic field "gradients". This process does not involve ionizing radiation (like x-rays, which can break molecular bonds) and can produce exceptionally detailed images.

Please see BIC Booking & Pricing for policies and fees for all BIC facilities.

Regular hours of operation: 5 days a week from 08:00-18:30

Unless noted otherwise, all fees include assistance from an MRI Technologist and/or Research Assistant from the Unit.

Pilot scanning at the discounted rate will be limited to a total of two hours for a given research study. In exceptional cases, such as large Studies comprising several sub-studies (requiring respective pilot scans), additional pilot scanning time may be granted on a case-by-case basis by the co-Directors of the MRI Unit, in communication with the BIC’s Director.

Brief (under 15 minutes) equipment tests may be conducted without charge, so long as they do not interfere with research scanning. The scheduling of such tests is subject to the discretion of the MRI Technologist(s) on duty.

Development scanning entails cases where new pulse sequence/reconstruction/shimming software is being tested on the MRI systems or where new hardware (e.g. RF coils) or monitoring devices are being tested. Development scan time cannot be used to collect data for publications or grants. It is limited in scope to what is necessary to make a new pulse sequence or RF coil operational and will be monitored by the MRI Unit Physics team. Development does not include optimization of scan parameters or protocol development. It is generally subject to the same user fee policies as research scanning. 

Assistance from highly-qualified personnel

The MRI Unit team provides support in configuring stimulus presentation and subject monitoring equipment, in parallel with subject placement in the scanner and its operation. If needed they can also perform injections of contrast agent, blood draws, or carry out other clinical tests related to the imaging protocol (blood pressure, other). Our techs are also experienced in performing MRI of children, patients with reduced mobility, and individuals under sedation or general anesthesia. In addition, they have extensive expertise in carrying out complex animal imaging protocols with full disinfection of the MRI suite afterward. For industry sponsored clinical trials, the technologists can manage all documentation related to the study protocol and imaging sessions.

For further information about our MRI and the small-animal imaging facility, please contact the MRI Unit Co-Directors.

david.rudko [at] (Dr David Rudko) & christine.tardif [at] (Dr Christine Tardiff) Assistant Professors, Co - Directors, MRI Unit
pedram.yazdanbakhsh [at] (Dr Pedram Yazdanbakhsh) Research Associate, RF Lab Manager
ilana.leppert [at] (Ilana Leppert) MR Research Assistant, Clinical scanner 
michael.ferreira [at] (Mike Ferreira) MR Research Assistant, Clinical scanner 
arturo.aliaga2 [at] (Arturo Aliaga) MR Research Assistant, Pre-Clinical scanner
soheil.mollamohseniquchani [at] (Soheil Mollamohseni Quchani) Research Technician
david.costa [at] (David Costa) Research Technician
ronaldo.lopez [at] (Ronaldo Lopez) Research Technician
Marcus Couch Siemens MR Collaboration Scientist


Christine Tardif, Co-Director, MRI Unit

Dr. Tardif’s lab develops novel MRI techniques to generate high-resolution quantitative MR images of the brain in-vivo, and relates them to microstructural features of the tissue. Methodological developments include novel image acquisition techniques, multi-modal biophysical modelling, and high-resolution cortical modelling.  The lab has a translational approach, working on both small animal (7 Tesla) and human (3 and 7 Tesla) MRI systems at the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre of the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Dr. Tardif’s research has focused on MRI-based investigations of myelin, a lipid-rich cellular membrane that forms an insulating sheath around axons to achieve and maintain the rapid conduction and synchronous timing of neural networks. Myelination is a lifelong dynamic process of forming and modulating myelin sheaths. It underlies key mechanisms of brain plasticity and higher order cognitive functions. In addition to demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis, there is accumulating evidence that dysmyelination contributes to psychiatric disorders as well. Dr. Tardif’s lab investigates myelination (in both white and grey matter) using multiple MRI techniques such as relaxometry, magnetization transfer and diffusion-weighted imaging.

Dr. Tardif received her undergraduate degree in computer engineering from McGill in 2004, and her masters’ degree in bioengineering from Imperial College London, UK, in 2006. She then returned to McGill to earn a PhD in biomedical engineering in 2011. After postdoctoral studies at the Max-Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences (Leipzig, Germany) and at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (McGill), she joined McGill in 2017 as an Assistant Professor.


David Rudko, Co-Director, MRI Unit

Research in Dr. Rudko's lab is focuses on the application of novel MRI methodology in conjunction with biophysical modeling to augment the current understanding of brain anatomy and physiology. In neurological disease, the interplay between sub-voxel, cellular-level components such as microglia and axons executes a critical role in determining disease onset and progression. To investigate these features, our lab utilizes both small animal (7 T) and human MRI/MRS (3 T, 7 T) in conjunction with optical microscopy and advanced image processing methods. In particular, we develop MRI physics acquisition and post-processing techniques for mapping myelin density, axonal packing and axonal geometry. To improve existing models, we use numerical, magnetostatic/tissue relaxation simulation models based on the cell-level geometries observed from human brain histology images. An ultimate goal is to extend magnetic susceptibility and relaxometry-based MRI models of brain tissue microstructure to develop atlases applicable to neurological disease.

Ilana R. Leppert, MR Research Physicist

My background includes a B.Eng in Electrical Engineering and M.Eng in Biomedical Engineering, both completed at McGill. My main functions are to:

  • help researchers set up and implement their scanner protocols
  • develop/modify Siemens scanner sequences and maintain other scanner related software
  • support users with a wide range of quantitative analysis, including diffusion, ASL, MT, DCE-MRI etc.
  • I am also involved in a variety of different collaborative projects both within the BIC and internationally.



David Costa, Soheil Mollamohseni Quchani and Ronaldo Lopez, Radiology technologists

We are all fully certified radiology technologists with more than 15 years experience on the clinical research MR systems. Our primary responsibility is for subject/patient care and safety. Our tasks include scanner operation and setup. We are fully equipped to provide services such as blood draws and IV installation and are qualified to inject contrast media.


Michael Ferreira, Research Assistant

I am a Research Assistant working in MRI Core of the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre. I maintain fMRI stimulation and subject monitoring equipment at the MRI suites. I assist fMRI researchers with the development and implementation of new protocols on the MRI scanners. And I support researchers in the analysis of their MRI data.


Marcus Couch, Siemens MR Collaboration Scientist

I completed my BSc in Physics at the University of Western Ontario in 2009. In 2011, I completed my MSc in Physics at the University of Western Ontario under the supervision of Dr. Giles Santyr. My MSc project involved the measurement of regional ventilation in rat lungs using hyperpolarized 129Xe MRI. In 2015, I completed my PhD in Biotechnology at Lakehead University under the supervision of Dr. Mitchell Albert. My PhD project involved the development and optimization of inert fluorinated gas MRI in the lungs of rats and healthy adults. In 2019, I completed my postdoctoral fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children under the supervision of Dr. Giles Santyr. My project involved measuring the washout of hyperpolarized 129Xe in children with cystic fibrosis.

I am currently the Siemens MR Collaboration Scientist at the MNI. I work closely with the MNI MR facility and Siemens developers to optimize parallel transmit capabilities on the 7T Siemens Terra system. I am also working on imaging pulse sequence programming to support various projects at the MNI.



Pedram Yazdanbakhsh, RF Lab manager

Pedram earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering/RF Engineering at Duisburg-Essen University, Germany with a specialization in UHF (Ultra High Frequency) MRI in 2010. After graduation, he joined Rapid Biomedical GmbH in Germany as RF coil designer/Project manager of different projects especially for UHF.In 2016 he joined Ceresensa Inc. in London, Ontario Canada as the Head of Engineering to design and fabricate RF coils especially for PET/MR MRI systems.

Pedram recently joined BIC managing various projects to design and fabricate RF coils for the 7T Terra, 7T Bruker PharmaScan and 3T Prisma scanners.





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