What is fMRI?
MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a way to take pictures inside
the body using a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer. fMRI,
or functional MRI, uses the principles of MRI to look at how the brain
functions. It is a method for investigating which parts of the
brain are used for different cognitive tasks.
The Food & Drug Administration (USA) has indicated that MRI
exposure at the level used in this project represents an
“insignificant” risk. Canadian guidelines follow the USA
guidelines. We will provide you with more information about any
safety concerns before you decide whether to enroll in the study.
The following website can give you a more detailed explanation of fMRI:
What is the scanning session like?
The fMRI scanner is located at the Robarts Research Institute on the
campus of the University of Western Ontario. Because the MRI
scanner is a strong magnet, it
can pull metal objects toward it. Therefore, it is important that
you do not have any metal in or on your body. Every person who
goes into the room with the scanner will be asked to
fill out a form asking about any metal present in their
body. Before approaching the scanner, you
will be asked to take off your shoes and remove everything from your
pockets and all metal
items you may be wearing (for example, watches, jewelry, belts).
The Robarts Research Institute
When you are ready, we will go into the scanning room. Parents
may accompany their child into the scanning area while we are setting
You will lie on your back on the scanning
bed. Foam padding
will be used to keep your head still. We will give you blankets
and pillows to make you feel comfortable. Because the MRI is very
sensitive to movement, it is important that you keep still once we
start the experiment.
getting ready for a scanning session
Once you are comfortable, we will place a coil over
your head. We will attach a mirror to the coil so that you can
see the screen behind you. The bed slides back into the
ready to go into the scanner.
Once the equipment is all set up, we
into the control room where we can talk to you over an intercom
system. Parents are not permitted in the scanning room while the
scanner is running. Instead, they will be in the control room
looking at images as they are acquired.
When the scanner is turned on, it makes
loud humming and knocking sounds. You can hear a sample of
the sounds the scanner makes here.
Headphones and/or earplugs are
used to block out this noise.
During some scans, you will be looking at and/or hearing stimuli and
making responses using the response pad in
your hand. During other scans, you can relax and watch a movie or
close your eyes. Usually the experiments take about 30-60
minutes. After you come out of the scanner, we can tell you what the experiment
was about and show you pictures of your brain.
How should you prepare for a scanning session?
For your comfort and safety, participants in fMRI studies should follow
- Do not wear shirts with metal around the head (e.g.,
pullovers with zippers). Metal buttons and zippers on pants are
okay. When possible, sweatpants and sweatshirts are
- Do not wear hairclips or other types of jewelry that can
- Participants should wear contact lenses (if possible)
instead of glasses. Parents should also remove their glasses
before entering the scanning area.
- Participants' hair should be dry, and should not contain
products such as hair gel. These products can distort the
- Participants should not drink excessive amounts of liquid
before coming to the scanner, especially those containing
caffeine. That way you will not need to stop the session early to
use the washroom.
- Under-wire bras should not be worn on the day of the scan
because the metal can throw off the magnetic field. Sports bras
usually good and we keep a baggy sweater around if you want to wear it.
- Women with an IUD are not permitted in the scanning area.
- If possible, avoid wearing mascara, which can contain metal
Who should not participate?
The MRI scanner is a strong magnet, and it can pull metal objects
toward it, even from a large distance. Therefore, metal objects
and certain medical devices (such as hearing aids, surgical implants,
clips, and pacemakers) are not allowed in the vicinity of the MRI
scanner for safety reasons. You should not participate in a
research MRI scan if you have metal in your body from a previous injury
or surgery, if you have a piercing which cannot be removed, if you are
pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, or if you are afraid of
spending 1-2 hours inside of the scanner. People
with extensive dental work should not participate, as these can affect
the fMRI images. Dental fillings are fine. We have a screening
from to make sure that participating in an fMRI study will be safe for