What is MRI ?

What is MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a noninvasive technique that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the internal structures of the body.  For our research purposes, we will be using MR imaging to take pictures of the brain.  MRI does NOT use ionizing radiation (x-rays).

What is fMRI?

Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, is based on the same technology as MRI.  However, instead of taking detailed structural images of organs and tissues like MRI, fMRI measures and creates images of the changes in blood flow in different parts of the brain.  These changes in blood flow activity help us understand more about how the brain works.

Is MRI safe?

Having an MRI scan does not hurt.  You can’t even feel it!  There are no known side-effects or cumulative risks from having an MRI scan.  This is because, unlike x-rays, MRI does not use ionizing radiation.  Although MRI does not use radiation, its strong magnetic field and radio waves may not be recommended for certain groups of people including:

Pregnant Women

People with metallic devices in their body that they cannot remove

Individuals with pacemakers or electronic medical implants

How is an MRI done?

Before undergoing a real MRI, research participants will acclimate to the MRI environment by using a mock MRI system.  This non-functioning mock scanner simulates the noises and general feel of participating in an fMRI.

The MRI scanner is a large cylinder and has a tube running through the middle which is open at both ends.  During the test, one lies on a table.  The head may be placed in a brace to hold it still.  Then they are slid headfirst into the large cylinder in the MRI scanner.  It is recommended that individuals with claustrophobia, or fear of small spaces, do not undergo MRI scanning.  Ear plugs will be provided as the scanner makes loud tapping noises as it is taking pictures.

While the machine is scanning the brain, the person being scanned will perform a task such as looking at pictures or answering questions on a computer screen.  The scan can last anywhere from a few minutes to 1 – 2 hours.  Individuals will experience no after-effects following the scan.

Where is an MRI done?

Most of our MRI scans are done at the UC Davis Imaging Research Center at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.