Video: Participating in an MRI Study

When kids and their families come to participate in an MRI study at MIT, we do everything we can to make the experience easy, comfortable and fun. Your trip starts when you enter our building at the Martinos Brain Imaging Center on Main Street. It’s right next to the T and to free parking!

Before we begin the actualstudy, we give you a chance to practice in our mock MRI scanner. This helps you to practice lying still so we can get nice clear brain pictures.It also gives you a chance to get used to the experience of lying in a scanner and hearing the sounds it makes.

Once you’ve practiced with the mock scanner, you’ll work with researchers to practice the task that you’ll do in the actual MRI scanner. You might play a word game, listen to sounds, or look at pictures.

After you have practiced all of the parts of the study, we get ready to go into the scanner. We have a special metal detector wand to make sure there is no metal in your clothes, because the MRI is a big magnet!

Our team helps you get comfortable. It can get a little chilly in the scanner room, so we have a blanket to keep you warm.  Once you are comfortable in the scanner, it’s time to start taking brain pictures!You will play the game you practiced before, and watch a movie while we take more brain pictures.

After the researchers are all done, you and your family can look at the pictures of your brain! Everyone who participates in an MRI study gets a CD of really cool brain pictures to take home so you can show classmates, family and friends what you did at MIT.

Lots of parents and kids have questions about participating in research. Here, Dr. John Gabrieli, director of the Martinos Imaging Center, answers some of those questions.

Is it safe?

Dr. Gabrieli: All the brain measures we use at the imaging center are very safe for children of every age.People around the world use them for things like infants born hours to ago to 90-year-olds.So these are very safe measures that don’t involve anything like injections or radiation.They’re really all measures that simply take pictures of what’s going on, rather than anything else.So it’s very safe, very comfortable.

Is it convenient?

Dr. Gabrieli:We make it easy for them.Easy parking right next to the building, so they don’t have to struggle with traffic or anything like that.We’re very near places where you can get food easily. It’s just an easy outing for a family.

Why should you volunteer?

Dr. Gabrieli: The volunteers who come and get their brain scanned in one way or another are the essence of the research we do.  They’re really our partners in discovering how the brain works, how it works in healthy people, and how it grows in children.  Without these volunteers, who are really our partners, we just don’t know anything.  They’re the ones who are letting us peek inside the brain and discover how the brain lets people be people.

Do families have a good time?

Dr. Gabrieli: We try to make it fun all the way through, and the kids seem to enjoy it. We make it fun by making it a series of games.  There are different kinds of games and some are good for 5- or 6-year-olds, some are more fun for a 12- or 15-year-old.  And we make the environment as pleasant as possible. There are toys all over the place.  There are games to be played.  So we try to make the whole thing just a fun,easy experience for children and parents.

When can we come in? 

We can accommodate family schedules in many different ways.  We have appointments available on weekends, after school, and during vacation. We love to have people come into the lab.  Parents and children who have come in for MRI studies have a lot to say about what a positive experience this is.

Parent 1: We’re actually getting something out of this, more than I thought.  I was thinking this would be a great opportunity for us to learn something about dyslexia, and we would benefit other children.  They could learn from what my son has by what they were doing here today.

Parent 2:The MIT scientists are the best in the world, so the educational part, the fun part for the children, to be exposed to this and to partake in the studies…the children wanted to do it themselves. And the crew here is just phenomenal.  They really make the children feel great and part of it.

Child Participant:It’s been a ton of fun and it’s been really cool meeting all these scientists that I’ve heard so much about.

Parent 2: I wanted to expose my children to this experience so that they can enjoy an interest in the brain.

Child Participant: I think learning about the brain and seeing pictures of my brain and seeing the brain waves is really cool!

Parent 1: I would highly encourage people to participate in this type of process because you never know what you’re going to get back out of it.

Thank you for watching our video.We would love to have you come to our lab!If you have any questions, email us at gablabstudy (at) gmail (dot) com.

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