Currently, eight research units are located at the Erwin L. Hahn Institute. The groups’ research interests and expertise encompass diverse areas. Due to the close interdisciplinary and international collaboration of the research groups, technical, methodological and medic­al questions relating to 7 Tesla MRI can be investigated comprehensively, making the ELH one of the world’s leading centres for research and application.

The research group led by Prof. Mark E. Ladd (German Cancer Research Centre, DKFZ, Heidelberg) is developing methods and technologies intended to make 7 Tesla examinations possible in the entire body, including the torso. The ELH in Essen, the DKFZ in Heidelberg and the Institute of Microwave and RF Technology in Duisburg (Prof. Klaus Solbach) are also working as part of a collab­orative project on research and development of a 32-channel RF transmit system which is the only one of its kind in the world to date.

The working group High Field and Hybrid MR Imaging led by Prof. Harald H. Quick is developing and evaluating new technology and methods for expanding the clinical application of 7 Tesla ultra high field magnetic resonance imaging (7T UHF-MRI). The aim is to fully exploit the high signal-to-noise ratio of UHF-MRI and thus achieve the highest possible functional and spatial detail reso­lution for various applications. The research groups led by Prof. Harald Quick and Prof. Mark E. Ladd work closely with one another in this area.

The research group led by Dr. Tom Scheenen specialises in advancing MR imaging and MR spectroscopy for oncological applications and their transfer into clinically relevant use. Research work in this group ranges from development of new RF coil technology and imaging sequences for 7 Tesla UHF-MRI, through investigation of new in vivo biomarkers to assess the aggressiveness of cancer, especially prostate cancer, to large-scale patient studies.

Dr. Koopmans’ group aims to improve spatial detail precision in neuroimaging (fMRI & DWI). The group’s second focus is on a specific area of application for high-resolution fMRI: imaging individual layers of the cerebral cortex. With the support of the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) Emmy-Noether Programme and as one of the pioneers in the field of layer-specific fMRI, Dr. Koopmans aims to improve the imaging techniques.

Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and can be detected using MRI proton reson­ance spectroscopy. However, the weak signal is masked by signals from other metabolites. The research group led by Prof. David Norris has succeeded in implementing techniques for 7 Tesla MRI spectroscopy which make it possible to detect the GABA signal. The group’s work focuses on improving measurement methods and applications chiefly in the field of diabetes research, where investigation is under way into, among other issues, the relationship between memory performance and the GABA concentration in certain areas of the brain.

Prof. Matthias Brand’s research group is interested in neural correlates of cognitive and emotive processes. A particular focus of the research here is on how decision-making can be influenced by emotion processing, human-machine interaction, and the neurobiological and neuropsychological principles of behavioural addictions such as internet addiction or compulsive buying. The UHF-MRI facilities at the Erwin L. Hahn Institute make it possible to achieve internal differentiation of individual brain structures. For the fMRI-research outlined, the 7 Tesla MRI system also allows visualisation of activations in small structures, which is not possible or only with great difficulty in 1.5 or 3.0 Tesla MRI.

The high field strength of the MRI at the Erwin L. Hahn Institute is also extremely beneficial for research into the cerebellum. For example, investigation of the cerebellar nuclei located deep in the cerebellum is improved significantly by the use of 7 Tesla UHF-MRI and in some cases would be impossible without it.  The Experimental Neurology group led by Prof. Dagmar Timmann uses UHF-MRI for structural visualisation of the cerebellar nuclei in healthy subjects and in patients with certain conditions affecting the cerebellum, and also for functional MRI studies. As part of a Collaborative Research Centre funded by the DFG (SFB 1280), work is currently focusing on the significance of the cerebellum for the extinction of learned fear responses.

The research group led by Prof. Ulrike Bingel uses high-resolution MR imaging of the brain stem and spinal cord to investigate the connections between certain subcortical areas and pain processing in the spinal cord. A primary focus is on exploring the interface between pain processing in the central nervous system and the cognitive neurosciences.