Magnetic Resonance Imaging, otherwise known as MRI, is a new technology that is being applied in a number of different fields. MRI was initially developed for use in the field of medicine but it has since been used in paleontological studies and also in other fields. Before the existence of MRI, doctors only used to gather patient date through observation and different rudimentary tests. The only equipment or technology used for being able to look inside a living person was X-Rays. MRI is the first technology after X-Rays that allowed this kind of view of the patient.
In order to perform an MRI scan, the patient is made to lie down on the imaging table and securely placed. The table is then slid down on the MRI scanner. The scanner produces very powerful magnetic fields that have a particular effect on the body. The magnetic field aligns the nuclei within the atoms of the body. A radio frequency pulse is applied next. The last stage of the process is the nuclei releasing some of the radio frequency, which is picked up by the MRI machine. That data gathered is compiled by a computer in order to generate a very detailed view of the tissues in the body.
With earlier technologies like X-Rays, only the dense tissues of the body are detected -- for example, the bones. With MRIs even soft tissues are detected, which gives doctors an amazingly detailed view of the inner structures of the body.