FAQ for Volunteers

Are there any special requirements?

Each study will have specific inclusion/exclusion. These criteria will be described in the study advertisement and/or explained to you by the research team.

MRI Safety

MRI scanners have been in clinical use for about 20 years. When the MRI is used properly, there are no known risks to having an MRI scan for most people. Unlike X-rays, CT scans, and nuclear medicine studies, the MRI machine does not use X-rays or other forms of ionizing radiation. Instead, the MRI scanner uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to measure your brain activity when you lay on a bed in a tube. MRI uses a very strong magnetic fields and powerful radio waves. While an MRI exam is safe for most people, there are several instances when it is unsafe for someone to be in or around an MRI scanner. In order to make sure the MRI procedure will be safe for you, you will be comprehensively screened before starting the study.

Metal objects: Metal objects within or on your body and clothing can cause harm to you, in addition to distorting the quality of the MRI images. Such things as keys, watches, and credit cards will be kept safely away from the machine. We will ask you to take off all removable metal (e.g. jewelry, piercings, etc.). People with devices or objects inside their body that are affected by strong magnetic fields (i.e. metallic foreign bodies inside your head or in your eyes, incompatible medical implants, pacemakers, brain stimulators, blood vessel clips, etc.) will not be allowed to participate under any circumstances. Knowingly participating in this study with these types of metallic implants can lead to serious injury or death.  Although metal objects sensitive to strong magnetic fields are not allowed in the MRI scanner, there are many metal objects that are not sensitive to strong magnetic fields, such as dental work, pins or screws used during surgery, and even some tattoos contain metal. People with these types of metal objects may safely participate in this study. You will go through an extensive screening process to determine if the MRI scanner is safe for you before proceeding with your MRI exam.

Burn risks: In extremely rare cases, metal in the body (e.g., in tattoos) exposed to the powerful radio waves used in MRI may heat up. This heating occurs gradually, but if it goes unreported during the MRI exam it could lead to burns. Such burns are easily prevented by reporting any heating sensations that you have to the technologists immediately. For your safety, you will be monitored the entire time you are in the scanner. The study team will be able to talk to you and hear you talk during the exam through an intercom. You will also be given a ball to squeeze with your hand if you want to stop the exam immediately and for any reason.

Fear of small places: MRI machines require you to enter a tube about 2 feet in diameter and place your head in small helmet. For people with a fear of small spaces, this can cause anxiety. If you experience anxiety during your MRI exam, please let the technologist know. If you decide that you cannot complete the scan, you will be removed immediately from the scanner and released from the study.

Hearing loss: MRI scanners are very loud when taking a picture. You will be required to wear earplugs during the exam. When the earplugs are used properly, the noise from the MRI scanner is as loud as a garbage disposal or food blender. If the earplugs are not inserted into the ear canal, then temporary hearing loss is possible. If at any time the noise from the MRI machine is too loud, inform the technologist.

Muscle twitching and tingling: MRI machines turn magnetic fields on and off very quickly to make an image. In rare cases, this may cause your muscles to twitch and tingle. The muscle twitching and tingling are temporary and will stop as soon as the scanner stops. In some rare cases, some individuals find the muscle twitching and tingling to be uncomfortable and cannot continue with the MRI exam. If this happens to you, let us know and you will be released from the study.

Other miscellaneous risks: There are other short-term effects that have been reported in very rare cases during the MRI exam. These effects range from dizziness, to taste sensations, to light flashes during the MRI exam. These effects are temporary and occur as you move in and out of the MRI machine.  In most cases, these effects go away very quickly. If these sensations persist and you are unable to continue with the MRI exam, inform the researchers and you will be removed from the MRI exam and released from the study.

Pregnancy: It is unclear at this time whether strong magnets are a risk to unborn fetuses. Due to the unknown risk and potential harm to an unborn fetus from any MRI scan, pregnant women will be excluded. All women will be asked before entering the scanner if they are pregnant.