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MRI Information

Much of our research uses MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This is a safe and widely used tool to examine brain structure and function. Children and families enjoy participating in our studies.

MRI is a non-invasive technique (one that doesn’t use injections or radioactivity). A large machine takes pictures of the brain using magnetic field and radio-frequency energy. Very sensitive computers detect signals from various brain tissues. Structural MRI can be used to examine brain anatomy and functional MRI can be used to examine brain function.

Children who join our research study play word, number, or memory games while in the MRI.

What happens in the MRI?

  • Your child lies down with his/her head in a special “helmet”; so they can see a screen.
  • Pillows and cushions surround your child’s head and legs so they are still and comfortable.
  • Your child will wear headphones so they can always hear researchers in the other room and to protect their ears from the MRI noise.
  • A button box is in one hand (to make responses to the games) and an alarm ball is in the other hand.
  • Once all set up, the table is slid into the tube of the MRI.
  • During the scan, your child will be asked to make responses with the button box to what they see or hear.
  • If your child is uncomfortable, forgot what to do, or just generally needs to talk to us, they press the alarm ball and we come to get them to see what is wrong.
  • We are in constant communication with your child throughout the MRI.
  • Parents are allowed to accompany their child in the MRI if it will help the child.
  • After the MRI, we give you a CD to take home with images of your child’s brain!

Who should not participate?

  • Braces or non-removable retainer.
  • Claustrophobia (fear of enclosed places).
  • Body piercing that cannot be removed.
  • Implantation of any electronic devices such as (but not limited to) cardiac pacemakers and cochlear implants.
  • Metal in the body such as (but not limited to) replacement joints and bone screws.
  • Metal fragments in eyes or face.

How do you prepare my child for the MRI?

  • We make sure your child is safe to participate by screening when you first sign up and again right before the MRI (i.e., no metal in the body).
  • If your child is claustrophobic, we don’t scan them since the MRI could be scary for them.
  • If they are safe and ready to participate, your child will have a practice session to become comfortable in an MRI and learn what to expect in the real MRI.
  • We also practice staying still with your child, since that is important for a good MRI.

What should my child do to prepare?

  • Practice keeping their head still.
  • Do not drink a lot before the MRI.
  • Wear comfortable clothes without any metal.
  • Ask your researcher any questions you might have.