High Field MRI Center

VA Advanced Imaging Research Center - VAARC

Resources of the VAARC at the San Francisco VA Medical Center are available to all investigators interested in imaging at 3T and 7T.  Guidance on recharge costs, available support and resources are outlined below.  Investigators who would like to plan projects at the VAARC must be sure to have a discussion with the Imaging team so that needs, capabilities, and specific recharge rates can be finalized.  

The following MRI systems are available

3 Tesla Siemens Skyra

A Magnetom 3 Tesla Skyra MRI system is located within the Research MRI Suite in the basement of Building 203 and is fully dedicated to research scanning. The Skyra comes equipped with an actively-shielded 70cm bore magnet, an actively-shielded water-cooled gradient system, providing 45mT/m gradients with a slew rate of 200T/m/s, a digital RF transmit and a 64 channels receive system. The Skyra system includes packages for diffusion tensor imaging, 2D arterial spin labeling perfusion imaging, susceptibility-weighted imaging, BOLD rsfMRI, single voxel spectroscopy, 2D and 3D chemical shift imaging, and multinuclear spectroscopy. The system also comes with the following receiver coils:

  • Multi-element Body Matrix
  • 32 Channel Spin Matrix
  • 20 Channel Head/Neck
  • 32 Channel Head
  • 36 Channel Peripheral Angio
  • 4 Channel Large Flex
  • 4 Channel Small Flex
  • 16 Channel Hand/Wrist
  • 16 Channel Shoulder – Large
  • 16 Channel Should – Small
  • 15 Channel Transmit/Receive Knee (QED)

Standard imaging protocols are available and specific advanced sequences can often be negotiated as a Works In Progress with our partners at Siemens, or through c2p research agreements with other institutions.  One example is an optical motion tracking and correction package for brain MRI that is supported through a collaboration with the University of Freiburg, Germany.  Prospective motion correction is now routinely available for high-resolution MPRAGE and TSE. The optical motion tracking device can further be used with the auxiliary equipment for fMRI.  Also, the 3T system is capable of simultaneous EEG recording and MR imaging as well as task-based stimuli presentation for fMRI.

7 Tesla Siemens Magnetom

The 7T Magnetom is also a fully dedicated research system. This ultra-high field MRI system, located in the Research MRI Suite, is equipped with a state-of-the-art actively-shielded whole body magnet with 60cm bore size, an actively-shielded water-cooled gradient system, providing up to 70mT/m gradients per axis with a maximum slew rate of 200 T/m/s.

The system also includes a single channel transmit Nova Medical 32 channel receive head coil as well as a RF power amplifier providing up to 8 kW power. In addition, the 7T system includes a multinuclear MR package, as well as neurosoftware imaging packages and IDEA/ICE research development tools for sequence development.


Equipment is available to support physiological investigations including task-based fMRI; physiological recordings (EEG, ECG, and respiratory motion). 

Rooms are available for subject interviews and for preparation set up needed for physiological recordings in the MR scanner

MR Study Application

Investigators who would like to utilize the High Field MRI Center must submit an application prior to start of work. A new application is required and must be submitted for every new study or project, including development work.  Completion of the MR Study Application initiates a dialog between the user and the support team to make sure expectations are defined and met.
MR Study Application 

For funded studies:

Applications will be reviewed to determine the priority for scan time allocation. Users will be contacted once an application has been approved.

High Field Recharge Rates

High Field Recharge Rates (revised Oct 1 each year)

3T/7T MR Scan/hr (billed in 0.5hr intervals)


Oct 1, 2023



Oct 1, 2024



Oct 1, 2025



Oct 1, 2026



Oct 1, 2027

MR Tech/hr (billed in 1hr intervals)



MR User Training/hr (billed in 1hr intervals)



If needed - Attendance of Level 1 personnel at scan session as required for safety reasons/hr



MR User Certification

Operation & Safety

Official MR User certification is required for all personnel who will be accessing the MRI Center in the course of their research. The objective of the MRI system operation and safety certification is to ensure the safe operation of the facilities, to protect volunteers, research personnel and staff in the daily operation of the MRI scanner. As the High Field MRI Center is located on federal property, these guidelines are also mandated by the VA. These guidelines are designed to prevent accidents due to interactions with and around the MRI system.

***Per VA mandate, all certifications expire after one year. ***

Level I – Basic Safety

Level I certification provides the knowledge necessary to ensure one’s own safety during research-related activities within and around the MRI suite. Level I personnel may only have supervised access to the MRI suite and lack the authority to screen other individuals or bring other individuals into the scanner room. They may not enter the scan room without the approval of the scan operator (Level II or above). They are also prohibited from handling any MRI equipment. Certification at Level I requires training on how to screen oneself, what is and is not safe in the MRI environment, and knowledge of safety procedures for entering the MRI suite, and very basic emergency procedures (i.e. knowledge of who to call and how to rapidly access appropriate phone numbers).

When Level I Certification is complete, users will receive a yellow Level I User badge. This badge must be worn and displayed prominently at all times when present in the High Field MRI Center.

Level I users may include new staff trainees, recruiters, and schedulers.

Level II – Advanced Safety & Basic Scanner Operator

Level II certification builds upon Level I certification, providing additional knowledge to protect the safety of others, and to safely handle basic MRI equipment. They are certified to operate the basic MR equipment (not including ancillary equipment), and also have knowledge to screen others for entry in the MRI suite. Level II users would also have more in-depth knowledge of MR safety issues, including the safety of different materials for the particular environment, the safety guidelines of the applicable IRBs, and where to get more information if needed. Level II personnel are permitted to escort volunteers into Zone IV (the magnet room). Level II personnel are not allowed to utilize or bring any ancillary equipment into Zone IV.

When Level II Certification is complete, users will receive a green Level II User badge. This badge must be worn and displayed prominently at all times.

Level II users may include scan operators and most personnel routinely involved in research activities at the MRI.

Level III – Advanced Scanner Operator (Full Access)

Level III certification builds upon Levels I and II certification, and provides additional knowledge necessary for complete independent operation of the MRI system. Level III personnel have access to all areas of the MRI suite, authorized ancillary equipment (such as fMRI screens, Motion Correction, etc.), and when operating the scanner, are responsible for the safety of all research personnel, volunteers, and visitors. These individuals would have knowledge of the requirements needed to run a safe MRI environment and the proper use of authorized ancillary MR equipment. Level III personnel are authorized to operate the MR scanner during off-hours.

When Level III Certification is complete, users will receive a blue Level III User badge. This badge must be worn and displayed prominently at all times.

Contact Info

For more information, or to start the certification process, please contact:
Stephanie Rossi
Imaging Core Supervisor
Email: [email protected]

MR Scheduling

The High Field MRI Center utilizes an online scheduling system for investigators to reserve time on the 3T and 7T magnets. User logins are granted after a High Field MRI Center Study application has been submitted and approved.

MR Online Scheduling

Appointment System

All magnet appointments are assigned a priority level.


Event Type




Magnet - Appointment, Billed


Billed Scanner Usage


Magnet - Training




Magnet - Development, Unbilled


Unfunded development


Each priority event is defined as follows:

Appointment, Billed (Orange) – Any usage of the magnet room, in which use of the magnet by another group is prevented. Includes setup in the magnet room. All appointments and time booked in orange will be billed.

Highest priority. May bump blue or gray.

Training (Blue) – Training of any staff or on any new equipment. Includes all safety training and alike. Also includes pilot studies with recruited non-staff subjects. Each PI is allotted up to 10 pilot scans (for each new study) to collect preliminary data using a finalized study protocol.

Medium priority. May be bumped by orange.

Development, Unbilled (Gray) – Any unfunded or unpaid development (i.e. protocol development). Also includes setup in console room, usage of console only, etc.

Lowest priority. May be bumped by orange or blue.

Regardless of event type, all users are required to log the total time spent using the MRI scanner and study information in the Magnet Billing database.

*** Failure to log scans in the Magnet Billing database may result in a penalty charge of up to 2 hours of usage.

Scheduling Appointments

All MRI users may schedule scans during Open MRI slots. Unlike assigned MRI appointment slots, any user may utilize open magnet slots.

All scheduled MRI training or development scans may be bumped for funded research and clinical scans with participants (orange priority). If you are taking a slot in which there is already a scheduled appointment, you are required to notify the owner of the appointment you are bumping with as much notice is possible.

Note: Users do not own any slots. If an MRI appointment with an outside participant has yet to be scheduled one week prior to the event, the slot then becomes available to ALL users on a first-come, first-served basis. We call this is our One-Week Rule.

Users with assigned MRI slots are required to make all possible efforts to scheduling appointments during their assigned slots before using an open slot.

Assigned slots may be requested in the CIND MR Application. All slots expire six months for assignment. Contact CIND staff to renew, if necessary.

Scheduling Unfunded (Development) Scans

During business hours (9:00 am through 5:00 pm) - To schedule an unfunded scan during business hours, appointments must follow the One-Week Rule. These appointments may only be scheduled up to one week in advance to the desired time.

During off hours (ending before 9:00 am or starting after 5:00 pm) – For appointments occurring in off hours, unfunded scans may be scheduled in advance, with no limitations.

Cancellations and Unused Time

In the event a booking is no longer needed, appointments must be removed from the calendar at least 48 hours before the event. Users who do not update their appointments from the calendar may be charged the full amount of the booked time. Repeat offenders may also have their scanning privileges withdrawn.

If you are utilizing a center technician:
Once you are aware of a cancellation, please notify or email the center Magnet Lead as soon as possible. Do not include any subject identifiers in any email communication. If CIND is not notified prior to the scheduled appointment, users may be charged for any unused scanner time and technician time.

Recurring Slot Assignments

Recurring MRI appointment slots are assigned to funded studies and are determined based on the study’s recruitment totals. For example, if study goals are to acquire 50 scans within one year, then a weekly slot is allocated to achieve recruitment goals. Additionally, we factor in the length of the MRI scan protocol as well as time required to prepare for the scan, including consenting of the research participant, MRI Pre-Screen, and EEG cap set-up. All assigned slots are reviewed every 6 months.

To apply for an assigned slot, please indicate it on the MR Study Application.

Sharing Assigned Slots

Users are encouraged to contact each other directly to request slot trades/use of a study slot. Trading MRI appointment slots is up to the discretion of each MRI user. All slot expiration dates will maintain their original expiration date.

Short‐Notice Scheduling

If you are utilizing a center technician and an MRI scan is scheduled to occur within three days or less, please notify the center Magnet Lead to confirm availability prior to scheduling.

Contact Info

Stephanie Rossi
Imaging Core Supervisor
Email: [email protected]