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University of Texas at Austin Appoints New Director of Imaging Research Center

Dr. Steven Kornguth, a neuroscientist and biochemist, has been appointed director of the Imaging Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

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Dr. Steven Kornguth, a neuroscientist and biochemist, has been appointed director of the Imaging Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

Kornguth will expand the scope of the center’s mission to work with the central Texas medical community as well as conduct basic scientific research.

The center, which opened in 2006, operates the most powerful magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine in central Texas. Dr. Michael Domjan, who has led the center since its opening, returns to his full-time faculty post in the Department of Psychology.

MRI is a noninvasive technology that can be used to study anatomy, function and neurochemistry in alert human and animal subjects. It creates three-dimensional, high-resolution pictures of the body through the use of a magnetic field.

The center’s scanner is 3.0 Tesla in strength, which means it is 70,000 times more powerful than the earth’s magnetic field. The most powerful scanners used in Austin area radiological clinics and hospitals are 1.5 Tesla.

Kornguth has been at the university since 1998. He is director of the Center for Strategic and Innovative Technologies, part of the university’s Institute for Advanced Technology.

His background is in neuroscience. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he was involved in projects that used MRI to rapidly diagnose a Lupus-related disease and study glioblastomas, a common and aggressive type of brain tumor.

“Dr. Kornguth brings unique experience and perspective to the Imaging Research Center as it continues to support the research activities of faculty and students in this important technology and begins to work with the health-care community,” said Dr. Juan Sanchez, the vice president for research for the university who oversees the center.

Kornguth said that expanding the use of the scanner will allow more people to benefit from it, bring more research subjects to university scientists and provide more training for university students as they enter the job market.

He said that opening the center to central Texas physicians and their patients will help bring faster diagnoses. Patients have to travel to Dallas, Houston or San Antonio for access to comparably powerful machines.

At the same time, Kornguth said, the clinical uses of the scanner will serve the research mission of the center.

“We are not diminishing research,” he said. “The university will continue to seek and obtain research projects in a variety of areas that will use the MRI machine as their primary instrument of investigation.”

Moreover, the clinical use of the scanner will complement and enhance research conducted by university scientists, Kornguth said.

Kornguth said the chance to study images from patients who are ill can lead to new insights and understandings of brain function.

The university obtained the scanner with a $4.65 million grant from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Researchers at the center are involved in a project with the U.S. Army concerning sustaining decision making in healthy adults deprived of sleep for 36 hours. Another project involves post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which affect a significant percentage of solders serving in Iraq.