MRI as an In Vivo Imaging Tool

MRI originated from the traditional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) physical phenomenon where a given nucleus exposed to high magnetic field absorbs and re-emits electromagnetic radiation. From the early 1950s, NMR was translated into spectroscopy (MRS) and contrast images (MRI), resulting from differences in tissue relaxation times. The technique has been further refined and now MRI is one the most specialized imaging modalities used in the assessment of therapeutic properties of drugs in preclinical in vivo imaging models. Radiofrequency waves combined with a strong magnetic field enable clear, detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues, such as the brain.

Below, you’ll find descriptions of Charles River’s MRI in vivo preclinical imaging capabilities and how these technologies can support your research.

MRI image of the rodent brain. Fast spin-echo sequence, 12 min scan, 18 x 0.7 µm brain slices, 78 mm in plane.

Anatomical MRI

Anatomical or Structural MRI is used to study the shape, volume, integrity, and developmental changes in brain tissues and blood brain barrier.
Anatomical MRI Services


A diffusion MRI image of the rodent brain. Fractional anisotropy map of 4-segment spin-echo diffusion tensor imaging of a lesion induced by unilateral injection of lysophospatidylcholine (LPC) into the corpus callosum.

Diffusion MRI

Diffusion-based MR imaging is the gold standard to determine the brain tissue condition, e.g., infarction, or to examine white matter and myeline properties, both in clinical applications and in preclinical research.
Diffusion MRI Services


BOLD activation mapping of the amphetamine-induced signal change in phMRI.

Functional & Pharmacological MRI

Functional MRI (fMRI) and pharmacological MRI (phMRI) are valuable tools to quantitatively measure changes in brain physiology and response to pharmacological modalities.
fMRI & phMRI Services


Gadolinium contrast agent-enhanced MRI used to detect blood-brain barrier (BBB) leakage via full brain mapping. When the blood-brain barrier is compromised (e.g., in a stroke model, shown above), the large gadolinium molecule can leak into the brain.

Hemodynamic MRI

Hemodynamic MRI is a preclinical in vivo imaging technique which comprises a broad range of modalities that can be used in any indication with a vascular component, including naïve animals, models of stroke, traumatic injury, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, or other conditions with compromised perfusion or blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity.
Hemodynamic MRI Services


1H-MRS in aged female Fisher rats and CVN Alzheimer’s disease mouse models. In both models, N-acetyl aspartate and Glutamate are decreased while myo-inositol is increased.

Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS)

1H-Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) is used to quantitatively evaluate metabolic markers in localized brain structures such as striatum, hippocampus, or even brain tumors. This method allows longitudinal in vivo metabolic profiling of disease progression as well as response to drug therapies and is ideally suited for chronic long-term studies to comprehensively characterize disease rat and mouse models with multiple readouts and timepoints.
MRS Services


Using Preclinical MRI to Accelerate Discovery

Preclinical in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can improve your efficiency and smooth the path from laboratory concept to commercial product. With more than 70 years of in-house collective expertise with MRI modalities, our team can help you to design and execute studies that meet your needs.

Our preclinical in vivo imaging experts who specialize in neuroscience research will help you find the right modality to address any of your specific questions – whether you seek data on mode of action, functional target engagement or something else – across all disease areas, e.g., acute neurology, neurodegeneration, demyelination, pain, seizures, and more.

We perform In vivo imaging with MRI using state-of-the-art systems and a plethora of models:

  • Two dedicated high field 7T and 11.7T in vivo imaging systems
  • Structural and functional imaging modalities
  • Vast portfolio of neurological models

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about MRI Preclinical In Vivo Imaging