Frequently Asked Questions

Take a look at our list of FAQs! If you still have questions or concerns - please reach out!

Why do we use MRI?

We use neurobiological and cognitive measures to discover the neurobiological profiles of readers of all ages and skill levels. We use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to understand more about the function and the development of the brain with respect to reading ability. During your visit to our lab, your child will likely be having an MRI brain scan performed as part of the study. Participation in the MRI is optional for most of our studies, but we hope you will consider the importance of this type of research before completely opting out. There are links below for you to investigate the science behind MRI and how it works.

Who can participate?

Because the MRI machine works using a magnetic field, you must complete a screener form for your child before the scheduled scan. The form includes medical questions about any past surgeries, traumas/injuries, dental work, etc. to be sure your child is safe to go near the equipment and be in the magnetic field. This information is kept confidential, as with all other private study information we collect about you or your child. Only research team members and imaging technicians who need to review the information for safety will have access. You may preview the screener form, but we ask that you wait to complete the form the day of your first visit so that we have the most current/accurate information available. If any surgeries or other events are reported that may have included possibility of metal being in your child’s body, we will need to follow up with other questions to make sure the metal is no longer a safety concern. Sometimes this may involve obtaining surgery notes or a letter from the surgeon (i.e. indicating removal of metal after implant), or viewing your child’s medical records of the event in question. This information is viewed by our pediatrician on staff as well as the technicians at the Imaging Institute. The approval steps necessary can sometimes take a while (contacting physicians, getting medical release forms completed, etc.) and we try our best to prevent last minute scrambles for this information. We will assist you in taking the necessary steps for all approvals well before your scheduled visit. On rare occasions, we may have to exclude your child from participation if there are safety concerns that cannot be resolved.

What will happen during your visit?

First, the screener and MRI consent forms need to be completed. All information will be kept confidential. Then for children 8 years or younger, a very scripted process will begin to guide them through preparation for the scan.

Assuming all parties agree to continue with participation in the real scan, you and your child will return to our lab on a different day. We intentionally schedule two separate visits to allow us time to cancel the real scan if we need to for any reason. If you cancel, it MUST be at least 24 hours before the scan.

We request that you arrive about 30 mins ahead of the scan time so your child has plenty of time to get ready (bathroom, remove metal, etc). Scans for younger children are usually no more than one hour, while scans for older children may go as long as 2 hours with a 10 minute break in the middle. The child will have an “emergency button” on their lap during the scan if anything should suddenly happen (feeling ill, needs to use restroom, discomfort or pain) and will be instructed to push this if they need to stop the scan immediately. Your child will receive a picture of their brain from the scan images we took during their session. Our staff will go over a few age-appropriate details with them as a brief educational/question-answer opportunity.

What is fMRI?

Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, uses a large magnet to take pictures of activity in your brain. The machine looks like a large cylinder with a table inside for you to lie on. During the MRI you are asked to lie very still so that we get a clear picture. You will also be asked to play a computer task while you are lying in the MRI machine. This is a completely non-invasive procedure. There will be no contrast, needles, or injections.

Is it safe?

Your child's safety is of our utmost concern.  Our Phillips 3T scanner is an FDA approved device for children.  MRI scanning has been scientifically proven to be safe for children and does not involve any radiation.  We also follow suggested best practices for MRI imaging in children. The imaging portion of the study is a separate consent from the behavioral study. If children would like to partake in the behavioral portion but not the MRI exam that is also an option.  After reviewing the information pertaining to MRI scans with children, if you have any questions or concerns - please contact us!

How does it feel?

The MRI scanner does not change the way you feel. You will be asked to lie on a soft table and remain as still as possible. You will have a pillow under your head and a blanket is available if you get cold.

Can I eat before my appointment?

Yes, you can eat before you come, but try not to drink too much.

Tips and suggestions for scanning

To prepare your child for their visit, go through this slide show.

To mimic the real scan environment, play these sounds for your child using headphones. To simulate a real scan, have your child practice lying very still while listening to the scan sounds. The child may watch a video/cartoon with the sound muted while listening to the recording. Restart the sounds as needed. Try to work up to lying still for thirty minutes while listening to the MRI scan sound clip.

It may also help your child if you make a game out of it. Tell them to try to “name” the sounds using familiar objects/machines (e.g. that noise sounds like a washing machine, or that one sounds like the fire alarm at school, etc.) – ask, “what do you think that sounds like?”

In our experience, playing the sounds in this way, a couple times a day, for a couple days in a row before your scheduled visit, may greatly reduce anxiety during the real scan.

Here is a day of scan checklist.

What should I wear?

On the day of your scan, please wear comfortable clothes. The MRI uses a very large magnet, so be aware of how much metal you have on your clothes. Snaps and zippers on pants are fine, but please make sure that your shirts and sweaters are free of metal. Please do not wear shirts or sweatshirts with hoods.  Do not wear any metal barrettes in your hair. Please do not wear any jewelry and be sure to remove earrings and any other body piercings if possible.


Participants in our studies are compensated for each visit. In order to pay you, we need you to complete a payment form which will ask for a mailing address, phone number, social security number, and signature. Participation in research is considered taxable income, therefore we must collect your SSN for payment. The information is kept in a locked file by our lab program coordinator until your visit is complete and then transferred to our administration staff for processing and distribution. The checks may take up to 2-3 weeks to be mailed. You will be contacted by our lab if we are notified that any additional information is required for payment/distribution. If you haven’t received your check within 4 weeks from last day of participation, please contact our lab.