Scientific Director: Prof. Dr. rer. nat. David G. Norris

The Erwin L. Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (ELH) was founded in 2005 as an interdisciplinary central facility of the University of Duisburg-Essen and Radboud University Nijmegen. It is dedicated to research, development and application of ultra high field magnetic resonance imaging (UHF MRI), with a special focus on cognitive neuroscience and clinical diagnosis. The ELH is part of the Main Research Area „Biomedical Sciences“.

“Excellence in Brain and Body UHF MRI” is the motto under which the ELH looks back on over ten years of successful German-Dutch collaboration and cutting-edge international research on the UNESCO World Heritage site of the former coking plant Zollverein Essen. A special focus of all those involved is on the close interdisciplinary cooperation between cognitive scientists, researchers from the natural sciences and engineering, and clinicians. This is the basis of the successful research activities at the ELH.

The centrepiece of the Institute is a 32-ton whole-body magnetic resonance scanner, which operates at a magnetic field strength of 7 Tesla, making it the most powerful magnet in the Ruhr region. Compared to the MRI systems with a field strength of 1.5 and 3.0 Tesla used in clinical imaging around the world today, the 7 Tesla UHF MRI system delivers much higher sensitivity for structural and functional measurements inside the human body. The system produces cross-sectional images with excellent soft tissue contrast and very high detail resolution.

Before UHF MRI can reach its full potential and be used in clinical diagnosis, there are many physical and technical challenges to overcome. For example, no less than 420 tons of steel were installed in the walls of the exam room at the ELH to shield and homogenise the magnetic field. The superconducting magnet also requires constant cooling with liquid helium to -269°C.

There are only a few research institutions worldwide that meet these requirements.

One of the chief objectives of the Erwin L. Hahn Institute is to use its technical and methodological developments to make the benefits of UHF MRI in neuroimaging applicable to all parts of the human body and to advance the dissemination and application of this technology. The Institute provides an excellent research infrastructure for various research groups from the two founding universities and cooperates very closely with different academic and industrial partners.

The main areas of research at the Institute centre on the development and application of new methods and technologies in ultra high field MRI for:

  • high-resolution structural, functional and spectroscopic MRI of the brain
  • cognitive neuroimaging
  • fMRI in decision-making processes and for human-machine interactions
  • fMRI in pain research
  • high-resolution structure and physiology of the human cerebellum
  • high-resolution 7 Tesla UHF MRI in all parts of the human body
  • clinical evaluation of head and body MRI compared to 1.5 and 3.0 Tesla MRI
  • high-resolution tumour and metastasis imaging in cancer diagnosis