Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging boosts research in Amsterdam

30 March 2015

Amsterdam has acquired yet another exceptional research facility. Four hundred neuroscientists in the Amsterdam region can now make use of ultra-sensitive MRI scanners at the new Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging to conduct basic research into brain function and brain disorders.

Spinozagebouw3.jpgPhoto Gerard Veerling

Impetus for Amsterdam region

The Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging is a partnership between the Netherlands Brain Institute (part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), the University of Amsterdam and its medical centre (AMC), and VU University Amsterdam and its medical centre (VUMC). ‘I’m delighted that, together, we have succeeded in building this major research infrastructure for brain research in Amsterdam,’ says Theo Mulder, the Royal Academy’s Director of Research and one of the initiators. ‘The Spinoza Centre is unique because it allows researchers to make full use of scanning capacity for scientific research. This puts Amsterdam in a position to expand its leading role in neuroscience internationally.’

Brain imaging

The Spinoza Centre has two 3 Tesla scanners (one on Roeterseiland Campus) and one 7 Tesla MRI scanner – there are only three of scanners of this kind in the Netherlands – that produce very high-resolution images. The scanners make it possible to measure brain activity in the individual layers of the cerebral cortex while the subject is lying in the scanner carrying out various tasks. Researchers can also observe anatomical details that less powerful magnets are unable to detect and accurately analyse brain metabolism. The new building, located on the grounds of the AMC, also has laboratories for other imaging techniques and behavioural experiments.

Research

The Spinoza Centre concentrates on the following research into healthy and diseased brain function:

  • Cognition (research into the way the brain processes information)
  • Emotion (research into the brain's vulnerability to mood disorders, for example)
  • Clinical neuroscience (research into psychiatric disorders)
  • Methods and statistics (development of data acquisition protocols and statistical analysis and modelling).

About the building

The 7 Tesla’s magnetic field is 140,000 times stronger than that of the earth. With a view to the necessary user safety, the MRI building resembles a bunker. The waiting rooms and laboratories, on the other hand, require natural daylight. The architects resolved these conflicting demands by using landscaping to separate the two functions from one another. The section containing the MRI equipment is situated beneath an earthen mound that blends naturally into the green surroundings. The 7 Tesla scanning room is encased in 25-cm-thick solid steel walls. More than 400,000 kilos of steel were used in construction.

The project was supported by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and by funds contributed by the City of Amsterdam and the Province of Noord-Holland. The Spinoza Centre cooperates with the university medical centres in Leiden and Utrecht, which also conduct medical research using a 7 Tesla MRI scanner produced by Philips, another member of this network.