What is an MRI?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It is a machine that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to take detailed pictures of the brain. This section provides more information surrounding the procedure. 

What Does MRI Stand for and How Does It Work?

MRI is short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnets to take 3D pictures of the brain. Some of the scans will collect “anatomical pictures” of your child’s brain, which show us the physical structures. In other scans, your child will be asked to play different types of games so that we can see your child’s brain working. This type of scan is a functional MRI (fMRI) that allows researchers to visualize which parts of the brain are active and connected during each task. MRI scans do not use radiation or X-rays and they are safe and painless.

Is the MRI Safe?

Yes, the MRI is a very safe procedure. It’s actually safer than an X-ray at the dentist! The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states, “There are no known harmful side-effects associated with temporary exposure to the magnetic field used by MRI scanners”. In fact, many members of the scientific team regularly do an MRI to test our equipment and procedures. Also, the children of our scientists (as young as 4 years old) have also done MRI scans (and liked it)!

How Long Will the MRI Scan Take?

The MRI scan for the ACE Project will last about 90 minutes.

However, the MRI appointment will be around 4 hours total. The appointment includes discussing and signing the MRI consent and assent forms, filling out some brief surveys on an iPad, learning the rules of the thinking tasks (video games) that will be played during the MRI, and practicing the thinking tasks in a ‘pretend’ scanner. After that, teens will meet the scanner tech and begin the MRI scan.

Am I Getting Radiation From the MRI?

No. Unlike X-ray and CT scans – which give you a radiation dose – the MRI machine uses magnetic fields and radio waves to take pictures of brain. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states, “MRI does not use ionizing radiation, like X-rays and CT scans.

What about Metal in the MRI?

Due to the magnetic field, the MRI scanner is particularly sensitive to metal. Before the scan, you will be asked to fill out a screening form for your child which asks about anything that might create a health risk or interfere with the brain pictures.

Any metal or medical device within someone’s body must be reported, such as: pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD’s), cochlear ear implants, aneurysm clips, and/or metal implants. In general, braces, retainers (that cannot be removed), and other fixed orthodontic appliances are generally safe for MRI, but for the ACE Project, individuals with metal IN or ON their body that is not removable will not be able to participate.

What Should (Shouldn't) I Wear to the MRI Visit?

No metal of any kind is permitted to be taken into the MRI room. This includes jewelry, hair pins, cell phones, keys, coins, watches, and wallets. Before teens go into the MRI room, they can place their personal items in a secure cubby (bin).

Do not wear any clothing items containing metal (e.g., underwire bras, shirts with beads, clothing with metallic accents, rhinestones, sequins, or metallic threads). Wear warm, comfortable cotton clothing. For example, plain t-shirts, track/basketball shorts, sweat pants, or pants/jeans with plastic zippers and buttons.

If needed, we have clean pants and shirts (“scrubs”) that teens may wear during the MRI scans.

Who CANNOT Participate in the MRI Visit?

Individuals with metal IN or ON their body that is not removable may not participate in the ACE Project. Also, those with claustrophobia– fear of being in confined spaces– are advised not to participate. Female participants should not participate if there is a possibility they may be pregnant.

Can I Be With My Child During the Scan?

Parents are more than welcome to wait in the waiting room while their teen is receiving the MRI. Once parents have had the chance to meet the scanner tech and review the MRI metal safety screening form, parents may stay or may leave to run errands. Staff can call the parents/guardians near the end of the appointment for pickup. Parents and teens are invited to ask any questions they have about the study procedures.

What's an MRI Scan Like?

The scanner is an enclosed space and it will be loud. So, we will provide hearing protection (e.g., earplugs and headphones). The most important thing to remember in the MRI scanner is to stay as still as possible. This allows us to make sure that the brain pictures we take are not blurry. Because, teens will be laying down for about 90 minutes, they might feel a little tired and dizzy when coming out of the MRI scanner (but this is temporary).

While in the scanner, teens will either be playing video games, watching a movie, or resting. Teens will be given a small button box to do the thinking tasks (video games) and will be able to communicate with the research team at any time when in the scanner. If desired, we can send participants a picture of their brain by mail after the visit.

The video below can give you a better idea of what it is like to do a MRI scan.

For more information, click the picture below to go to FIU’s Center for Imaging Science website.