History of the Center

The Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital, a leader in the development and application of advanced imaging technologies, opened its doors in 1989 as the MGH NMR Center.

One of the early achievements in the Center was the introduction of functional MRI (fMRI). In 1991, postdoctoral fellow Jack Belliveau, Center Director Bruce Rosen and colleagues reported the first demonstration of fMRI in the journal Science, which also featured one of Belliveau’s images on the cover. The following year postdoctoral fellow Ken Kwong introduced endogenous contrast to fMRI, publishing his findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists and clinicians the world over immediately saw the potential of the technique. They started testing it for a host of applications, including the study of human brain function, beginning with explorations of the human visual system. Again, Martinos Center investigators were at the forefront of this research.

In 1999, Thanassis and Marina Martinos of Athens, Greece, presented a gift of $20 million to the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Division of Health Sciences & Technology (HST) to honor the memory of their daughter Athinoula. The purpose of this gift was the establishment of a biomedical imaging center dedicated to fostering research that would span disciplines, from the basic biosciences to clinical investigation to the development and medical application of new technologies.

HST invited MGH to participate in founding the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and a partnership was formed. This partnership united the clinical and imaging expertise and extensive imaging facilities of the existing NMR Center at MGH with HST's strengths in engineering and basic neuroscience and the resources represented by the Martinos family gift.

The Martinos Center was launched in 2000 with a faculty of approximately forty investigators and over $23 million in existing biomedical imaging equipment.

The MRI program continued to thrive under this new banner, and the Center began to incorporate other imaging modalities to further its mission of translational research and technology development: optical imaging, magnetoencephalography (MEG), positron emission tomography (PET), and more.

The Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging continues to be a leading biomedical imaging research facility, with roughly 300 faculty and some of the most advanced imaging equipment available, including the "Connectom" MR scanner, which is eight times more powerful than conventional MR systems. This scanner has played an important role in the NIH Human Connectome Project, an ambitious effort to map the neural pathways that underlie human brain function.