FAQ for Volunteers

An MRI is generally considered to be safe. Millions of people are scanned in the United States each year. Serious complications can occur if you have an implant or medical device that is not safe to go in the magnetic field of the MRI scanner. A researcher and an MRI Technologist will review safety information prior to your scan. You will be asked several questions about any prior surgeries or medical procedures you have ever had in your life. It is important that you tell them if you have any metallic objects or devices in your body. The MRI Technologist will be in communication with you during your scan. You will also have a “call bell” in your hand so that you can contact the MRI Technologist at any time.

An MRI is painless. However, the MRI scanner is noisy. You will be given ear plugs to protect your hearing.

An MRI scanner is similar to a camera. If you move during a photo shoot, your picture will be blurry. The same thing applies to an MRI. If you move during your MRI scan, your images will be blurry. Most scans will last about one hour, so it is important that you are comfortable. Cushions may be placed around your head; this helps hold your head still. A comfortable bolster may be placed under your knees to take the strain off your back from lying still in the scanner.

Generally, tattoos are safe. However, some older tattoos may contain metallic flakes in the dyes that are used. These can heat up and become warm during the MRI scan. If this happens, please notify the MRI Technologist right away by squeezing the “call button” given to you at the start of the scan. The rest of the MRI scan will be discontinued.

Generally, any fixed or removable dental work is safe. However, if we are taking pictures of the brain, metal from root canal posts, dental spacers, permanent retainers, and braces may cause severe distortions on the scan, which renders inadequate scientific data. It is important to let the researcher or the MRI Technologist know about any dental work you may have.

We ask you to change into a scrub suit to keep you safe from burns. Some clothing, (it is impossible to know which ones), may contain chemicals or metallic threads that can heat up and cause burns on your skin. Because of this, we require everyone undergoing an MRI scan to change into a scrub suit.

Generally speaking, a clinical diagnostic work-up is not similar to an imaging research study. If you decide to participate in a research study, it is important for you to know that the type of scans and the data acquired during the scan is not equivalent to medical imaging and not sufficient to make a medical diagnosis. Additionally, the investigators and researchers are not medical doctors and are not trained in neuroradiology. Therefore, we are unable to supply or provide you with images or a medical interpretation of the MRI scan.