ECE 380 - Biomedical Imaging

Semesters Offered

Official Description

Physics and engineering principles associated with x-ray, computed tomography, nuclear, ultrasound, magnetic resonance, and optical imaging, including human visualization and perception of image data. Course Information: Same as BIOE 380. Prerequisite: MATH 285 or MATH 286.

Subject Area

Biomedical Imaging, Bioengineering, and Acoustics

Course Director


Introduction to the physics and engineering principles associated with magnetic resonance, ultrasound, computed tomography, and nuclear imaging.


Same As: BIOE 280


To provide a rigorous introduction to medical imaging, concentrating on magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, computed tomography and nuclear medicine. The approach used evolves from basic physical principles to image formation, image reconstruction, hardware design to clinical applications.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging

  • Classical description of nuclear magnetic resonance
  • Quantum mechanical description of NMR
  • Effect of radio frequency pulses
  • The free induction decay
  • Mechanisms and measurement of relaxation processes
  • Fourier imaging methods
  • Pulse sequences in MRI
  • Contrast agents: paramagnetic and ferromagnetic
  • Construction of magnetic field gradients and rf coils

Ultrasound Imaging

  • Wave propagation
  • Scattering, absorption, and attenuation of ultrasound
  • Instrumentation
  • Resolution in ultrasound imaging
  • Transducer focusing
  • Phased and linear arrays
  • A-mode imaging
  • B-mode imaging
  • Real time imaging
  • Doppler instrumentation
  • Clinical applications

X-ray and Computed Tomography

  • Instrumentation
  • Electronic structure
  • Mechanisms of absorption and scattering of x-rays in tissue
  • Contrast in radiographic images
  • Computed tomography
  • Data acquisition
  • Iterative reconstruction schemes
  • Clinical applications

Nuclear Imaging

  • Radioactivity and types of radioactive decay
  • The gamma camera
  • Tissue attenuation
  • Choice of radio nuclide
  • The technetium generator
  • Biodistribution of radio nuclides in the body
  • Resolution and image processing in nuclear medicine
  • Positron emission tomography

Detailed Description and Outline

Image Characteristics and Visual Perception: Concepts of resolution, point-spread-function, modulation transfer function, signal-to-noise level; Multi-dimensional Fourier transform; Spatial frequencies; Image filtering in spatial frequency domain; Structure and function of the human visual system.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Classical description of nuclear magnetic resonance; Quantum mechanical description of NMR; Effect of radio frequency pulses; The free induction decay; Mechanisms and measurement of relaxation processes; Fourier imaging methods; Pulse sequences in MRI; Contrast agents: paramagnetic and ferromagnetic; Construction of magnetic field gradients and rf coils.

Ultrasound Imaging: Wave propagation; Scattering, absorption, and attenuation of ultrasound; Instrumentation; Resolution in ultrasound imaging; Transducer focusing; Phased and linear arrays; A-mode imaging; B-mode imaging; Real time imaging; Doppler instrumentation; Clinical applications.

X-ray and Computed Tomography: Instrumentation; Electronic structure; Mechanisms of absorption and scattering of x-rays in tissue; Contrast in radiographic images; Computed tomography; Data acquisition; Iterative reconstruction schemes; Clinical applications.

Nuclear Imaging: Radioactivity and types of radioactive decay; The gamma camera; Tissue attenuation; Choice of radio nuclide; The technetium generator; Biodistribution of radio nuclides in the body; Resolution and image processing in nuclear medicine; Positron emission tomography.

Optical Imaging: Principles of light and light-tissue interactions; Light transport models; Concept of optical coherence; Optical sources and their characteristics; Optical biomedical imaging modalities and their applications.


Paul Seutens, Fundamentals of Medical Imaging, 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press

ABET Category

Engineering Science: 70%
Engineering Design: 30%

Course Goals

This course is a technical elective for electrical engineering students, and is cross-listed with the Bioengineering Department as BIOE 380. The course teaches the fundamentals and applications of five medical imaging techniques: x-ray imaging and computed tomography, nuclear medicine, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, and optical imaging. In addition, as a basis for biomedical imaging, introductory material on general image formation concepts and characteristics are presented, including human visual perception and psychophysics.

Instructional Objectives

Image Characteristics and Visual Perception:

Understand the concepts of resolution, point-spread-function, line-spread-function, modulation transfer function, signal-to-noise level, and contrast-to-noise level as they apply to images. (a, k, m)

Understand the two-dimensional spatial Fourier transform, its properties, its applications to biomedical imaging, and recognize effects of image filtering in various time---frequency and spatial---spatial frequency domains. (a, b, e, k, m, n)

Appreciate the structure and function of the human visual system, from the photoreceptors to the visual processing in the cortex. (a, i)

Know the specific clinical applications of each modality in the course. (a, c, f, h, i, j, k)

X-Ray Imaging and Computed Tomography:

Comprehend the basic principles behind x-ray-based imaging, the fundamentals of x-ray production, and the role of all elements of an x-ray vacuum tube. (a)

Understand the physics of the three attenuation mechanisms: Rayleigh scattering, the photoelectric effect, and the Compton effect, as well as the different dependencies on tissue type and x-ray energy. (a, m)

Comprehend the concept of back projection and iterative schemes for data reconstruction, and the progression of first, second, third, fourth and fifth generation computed tomography scanners. (a, b, e, j, k, m)

Nuclear Medicine:

Understand the basic principles of nuclear medicine, single photon emission computed tomography, and positron emission tomography, including the origin and detection of natural radioactivity, and the relevance of half-lives. (a, k, m)

Know the attenuation of gamma rays in tissue, the principles behind the design of the gamma camera, and the necessity for using collimators. (a, m)

Recall the production methods of other radionuclides, the biodistribution of radiopharmaceuticals, and clinical scanning techniques. (a, e, f, j, k, m)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging:

Understand the effect of putting protons inside a magnetic field, the principles discrete energy levels, and the Boltzmann equation relating the populations of quantum energy levels. Reproduce the derivation of the classical equations of nuclear precession and the Larmor equation relating the rate of precession to the strength of the applied magnetic field. (a, m)

Comprehend the interactions of the magnetic field produced by a radiofrequency probe and the nuclear spins, the induced precession and the process to give rise to the NMR signal. (a, e, m)

Know the techniques for measuring spin-lattice and spin-spin relaxation times, the principles behind frequency encoding, phase encoding, and slice selection in magnetic resonance imaging, and the full implementation of both spin-echo and gradient-echo imaging sequences. (a, e, m)

Ultrasound Imaging:

Understand the basic principles of ultrasound, including longitudinal waves, the characteristic acoustic impedance (Z), the intensity reflection coefficient (R), and the basic principles of attenuation of the ultrasound wave - scattering, refraction and absorption. (a, m)

Know the instrumentation used in clinical ultrasound scanning. Know the characteristics of lateral and axial resolution and what factors affect them. (a, b, e, k, m)

Recall the concepts of linear and phased arrays and the A-mode, M-mode, and real-time and static B-mode ultrasound imaging. (a, e, k)

Optical Biomedical Imaging:

Understand the basic principles of light and how it is absorbed and scattered in biological tissues. Recognize the limits and characteristics of the “biological window” in tissue, and which chromophores are responsible for this window. (a, m)

Comprehend light transport methods and models through tissue, including single-backscattering, ballistic and snake photons, and diffusive photons, and how each of these is used for biomedical imaging. (a, b, c)

Understand the concept of optical coherence, and how different optical sources produce coherent and incoherent light. (a, k, l)

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