PhD student Nader Tavaf successfully defends dissertation

March 20, 2021 — University of Minnesota Biomedical Engineering PhD student Nader Tavaf successfully defended his dissertation, "Improving Signal to Noise Ratio in Ultra High Field Magnetic Resonance Imaging" on Friday. He was advised by Pierre-Francois Van de Moortele, MD, PhD.

Following is an abstract of his dissertation:

Ultra-High Field (UHF) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) advantages, including higher image resolution, reduced acquisition time via parallel imaging, and better signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) have opened new opportunities for various clinical and research projects, including functional MRI, brain connectivity mapping, and anatomical imaging. The advancement of these UHF MRI performance metrics, especially SNR, was the primary motivation of this thesis. 

Unaccelerated SNR depends on receive array sensitivity profile, receiver noise correlation and static magnetic field strength. Various receive array decoupling technologies, including overlap/inductive and preamplifier decoupling, were previously utilized to mitigate noise correlation. In this dissertation, I developed a novel self-decoupling principle to isolate elements of a loop-based receive array and demonstrated, via full-wave electromagnetic/circuit co-simulations validated by bench measurements, that the self-decoupling technique provides inter-element isolation on par with overlap decoupling while self-decoupling improves SNR. I then designed and constructed the first self-decoupled 32 and 64 channel receiver arrays for human brain MR imaging at 10.5T / 447MHz. Experimental comparisons of these receive arrays with the industry’s gold-standard 7T 32 channel receiver resulted in 1.81 times and 3.53 times more average SNR using the 10.5T 32 and 64 channel receivers I built, respectively. To further improve the SNR of accelerated MR images, I developed a novel data-driven model using a customized conditional generative adversarial network (GAN) architecture for parallel MR image reconstruction and demonstrated that, when applied to human brain images subsampled with rate of 4, the GAN model results in a peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) of 37.65 compared to GeneRalized Autocalibrating Partial Parallel Acquisition (GRAPPA)’s PSNR of 33.88.
In summary, the works presented in this dissertation improved the SNR available for human brain imaging and provided the experimental realization of the advantages anticipated at 10.5T MRI. The insights from this thesis inform future efforts to build self-decoupled transmit arrays and high density, 128 channel loop-based receive arrays for human brain MRI especially at ultra-high field as well as future studies to utilize deep learning techniques for reconstruction and post-processing of parallel MR images.