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fMRI Frequently asked questions

What does fMRI mean?

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It is a technique for obtaining images of any organ or tissue in your body (such as your brain) by using a powerful magnetic field. MRI images show the structure of organs.

fMRI stands for Functional MRI,  and, unlike MRI, it is a method of imaging function, not structure. Specifically, fMRI can be use to study neural activity in your brain. When neurons in a given region in your brain increase their activity, it causes local changes in blood flow to that region, and fMRI detects these changes in blood flow.

MRI and fMRI methods are non-invasive, and do not involve ionizing radiation. We follow strict regulatory protocols to make sure scans are safe.

Do I ingest anything?

No. Contrast ingestion is not necessary for our fMRI studies. You may eat and drink as usual before the scan, but keep in mind that we will need you to lie still for some time. Therefore, we recommend avoiding food or beverage intake that will increase your likelihood of needing the restroom during the session.

Can I be safely scanned?

We will screen you for MR safety before you participate in an experiment. This involves answering some questions and completing a standard screening form. Here are some guidelines:

We cannot scan people with devices like pacemakers, cochlear implants, neuro-stimulation systems, or aneurysm clips.

Dental fillings, braces, orthopedic devices (e.g. titanium hip replacements), and small, non-color tattoos might be safe for scanning depending on the manufacturer. Notify the research staff of any implanted devices.

There is no indication that MRI harms fetuses, but this topic has not been conclusively studied, so anyone who is or may be pregnant should not participate.

How do I prepare?

Wear comfortable clothing with as little metal (e.g. zippers, glitter designs, clasps, buckles, studs, rivets) as possible. If you wear an underwire bra or a shirt containing too much irremovable metal, you will be asked to change into a hospital garment. Metal accessories (e.g. jewelry, hair clips, watches, credit cards, coins) will have to be removed before you enter the scanner.

Will it be scary?

MRI is non-invasive and painless. The most common complaint from participants is occasional boredom. 

While being scanned, you will lie on your back on a long table with a coil placed around your head (like an open motorcycle helmet). For this reason, anyone who has a serious expectation of claustrophobia or discomfort from lying still should not participate.

The MRI machine will make loud noises while acquiring images. We will provide hearing protection during the scan, but people with very sensitive hearing may not want to participate.

We will monitor you and communicate with you from an adjacent room. You can request to stop the scan at any time.

Is this a medical test?

No. These scans are not for the purpose of identifying any abnormalities or pathologies in your brain. We are not medical doctors and cannot provide consultation on these matters.

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