fMRI safety

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) uses magnetic fields to “take pictures” of your brain in action. FMRI is safe and pretty comfortable for most people. To make sure of your safety and that you meet the requirements for participation in the study, it is important that you pay attention to the following information and answer our questions carefully. All information you provide (or any questions that you ask us) will be kept completely confidential. If you don’t feel comfortable giving some kinds of information to us, that’s okay; however, please understand that we can enroll you in the study only if we can be entirely sure that you meet all the safety and participation requirements.

fMRI may NOT be safe or appropriate for people:

a. with shrapnel or other metal or electronic implants in their bodies (such as pacemakers, aneurysm clips, surgical devices, metallic tattoos on the head, etc.)

b. who are (or may be) pregnant

c. with a history of head trauma or fainting

d. with major medical, neurological, or psychological disorders (including depression, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, AD(H)D, strokes, tumors, heart conditions, claustrophobia, etc.)

e. currently using sleeping aids, painkillers (including aspirin), or other agents known to affect brain function (for instance, antihistamines, decongestants, etc.)

Based on this list is there any reason why you would not be able to participate? Please think carefully. If you have any questions regarding these criteria, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Prior to scanning you will be asked to complete a detailed health history questionnaire and screening form that will ask you to provide specific details regarding your health and certain other personal information. Many of the exclusion criteria are necessary in order to protect the safety of participants, so you will need to answer carefully and honestly. If you have any doubts about your participation, it is better to address them now (and will save you a potentially wasted trip to the scan center).

The scan center is located at Massachusetts General Hospital-East, in Charlestown, MA. There is a free shuttle that runs from the main MGH campus (a MBTA red line stop) to the Charlestown campus. Some studies may provide reimbursement for taxi services, if you provide a receipt; some studies may provide parking. The researcher will provide this information when you are scheduled to participate.

Because fMRI involves a strong magnetic field, before entering the scanner you will be asked to remove all metal items from your body, including glasses, hair clips, jewelry, piercings, makeup (which may contain metal dyes), watches, belts, etc. You may also be asked to remove any clothing (including bras) containing metal (snaps, zippers, buttons, hooks, wires, etc.) and to wear hospital scrubs instead. In order to avoid this complication, we ask that you simply do not wear clothing containing metal on the day of the scan (sweatshirt and sweatpants are good choices).