Having an MRI scan

What is an MRI?

MRI stands for “magnetic resonance imaging“: it is a technique to create two- or three-dimensional images of the brain using magnetic fields (but no X-rays and other radiation).

fMRI stands for “functional MRI”: it is a special MRI technique that measures the changes in oxygen in the brain blood vessels. This allows researchers to tell what parts of the brain are being used when people do certain mental tasks. 

MRI Example

Having an MRI scan: set-up

Checking you are able to have an MRI scan: Either before the appointment or right at the beginning you will have to complete some forms to check that you can have a scan.  Because the MRI scanner uses a large magnet it is important that you tell the researchers about any metal that you may have in your body.

Getting changed and ready for the MRI scan: You will then go to a changing room where you will leave your belongings and take off any metal items. If you are wearing clothes that have metal, you will have to change into a hospital gown. If you none of your clothes have metal, you may be able to wear them inside the scanner. The radiographer will tell you what you should remove.

Settling on the MRI scanner table: When you are ready, the radiographer will take you to the MRI scanner room. You will lie on the scanner table, and the radiographer will help you get comfortable. They will give you special earplugs to block the noise. These special earplugs have earphones inside, so that you can hear the radiographers when they need to speak to you during the session. The radiographer will also give you an emergency press button to use if you have a problem during the session. Finally, the radiographer will place a head rest around your head for you not to move it too much during the session.

If the session includes an fMRI task: If the session involves mental tasks, you might also be given special handles with buttons that you will use to do the mental tasks. The researcher will explain to you if you need them, and if so, how you will have to use them.

Andrew MRI Scan

Having an MRI: during the scan

The scanning session can last 10 minutes to 1hour, depending on the number of measures and tasks. The researcher and the radiographer will let you know when each new measure starts, and will tell you what to do.

If the session includes mental tasks, the researcher will tell you when they start and what to do during the tasks.

The scanner will make loud noises. The noises change depending on the type of measures the scanner is doing. Unfortunately, there is no way to fully block these noises. If you think these loud noises might be particularly uncomfortable for you, please let the researcher and the radiographer know.