The construction of the replacement VA Medical Center in Minneapolis in the later part of the 1980s afforded opportunities for enhancing research capabilities in psychiatry and related clinical and basic sciences. As early as 1980, even before a decision had been made in the VA Central Office in the former Veterans Administration (now the Cabinet Department of Veterans Affairs), the Chief of Nuclear Medicine had made preliminary plans for funding a center for positron emission tomography in the new building. Given the extraordinary quality of the building and equipment it was to contain, the Chief of Psychiatry at Minneapolis, Dr. Richard Magraw, saw there was a unique potential for developing a research chair in brain sciences to be located at the new replacement hospital. Toward that end, he worked with the Minnesota American Legion and Legion Auxiliary anticipating that a $2,000,000 endowment would be needed.
After a preliminary period of exploring the proposal and its potential, these organizations committed toward this goal. Their decision to undertake such a massive fund raising effort was made easier when the University of Minnesota offered to provide matching funds up to $1,000,000. In addition, of course, the University of Minnesota agreed to designate this as a University endowed chair to be located at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. Dr. Neil Gault, the former Dean of the Medical School, was instrumental in facilitating the arrangements with the University.
The Legion and Auxiliary conducted an effective campaign which resulted in a fund of approximately $1.2 million dollars in just a little over one year. With funds in hand, a search committee was appointed by the Dean, and Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos was recruited as the first American Legion-Auxiliary Professor of Brain Sciences. Meantime, Dr. Jose Pardo was recruited by the Psychiatry Service specifically to carry out studies making use of the capabilities of the PET Center. The PET Center was established as a separate unit in the Medical Center with its own chief and under the oversight of an interdisciplinary group which included the Chiefs of Radiology, Neurology, and Psychiatry.
The PET Center at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center was used heavily for research by the Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, Psychiatry Service from 1993-2001 (please refer to publications list). Other users included Cardiology and Neurology. With the need to upgrade the PET camera/computer systems and the development of new applications in oncology (which could not be accommodated by the head-only camera), the Medical Center decided to close the VA PET Center in 2001. FDG studies would continue at private, imaging facilities that were becoming commonplace in the Twin Cities. In 2011, the Minneapolis Veterans Health Care System installed a Philips Gemini TF (time of flight) Big Bore PET scanner and a Philips Achieva 3T MRI scanner as part of the Imaging Service for both clinical and research use.
Also in 2001, the MIND Institute provided funding to establish a magnetoencephalography (MEG) program in the Brain Sciences Center at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center as well as a Siemens Trio 3 T magnet dedicated for research at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota. This advance permitted the study of mental processes in the time (ms) domain, where PET and fMRI were limited because of the slow (seconds) hemodynamic response. For the first time, studies exploited the high temporal resolution of MEG, along with the high spatial resolution of fMRI.
In 2010, the University of Minnesota expanded the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) along the Biomedical Discovery District corridor and now includes the Center for Clinical Imaging Research (CCIR). The CCIR supports clinical and research studies. The facility includes a Siemens PETNET cyclotron (Eclipse HP 11 MeV); Siemens Biograph 64 PET/CT scanner; Siemens Trio 3T MRI scanner; Siemens Inveon DPET small-animal PET scanner; and a SPECT head camera. A Siemens PET/MRI scanner is planned for the near future.