Sanford School of Medicine Basic Biomedical Sciences

fMRI Research Project Participant Information

This page is designed to provide information about fMRI for individuals who are interested in volunteering to be a part of a research project directed by Dr. Gina Forster at The University of South Dakota (USD) Sanford School of Medicine in Vermillion, S.D. Please direct any questions about this information to the research coordinator of these studies at or by telephone, (605) 677-5170.  


What is fMRI? 

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging,or fMRI, is a specialized type of scan that allows clinicians and researchers to measure brain function. Using a powerful magnetic field (3 Tesla),Scanner Pic (339x640) (89x150) radio frequency pulses and a computer, the fMRI can detect changes in blood flow in the brain that are correlated with neural activity. fMRI is a non-invasive procedure that does not involve exposure to radiation.    


Our fMRI research takes place at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton, SD, using their new MRI clinical scanner. Potential participants should not contact Avera Sacred Heart Hospital directly about their participation in a study conducted by USD, and should instead direct inquiries to the contact details listed above. 


If you have been scheduled to participate in a fMRI study, you will need to meet the USD researcher at the reception area of the Radiology Department at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital.  This is located on the ground floor of the main hospital. 


If you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment, please call the research coordinator (605) 677-5170 as soon as possible.  


Getting to Avera Sacred Heart Hospital 


What Risks Are Associated with fMRI?  


Current risks of MRI are unknown but the Center for the Protection of Human Subjects accepts that current evidence about the use of MRI suggests there is minimal risk to the procedure.  Because the MRI scanner produces a very strong magnetic field, there is risk involved in the form of the potential for metallic objects to move through the room creating projectiles that could harm individuals and damage the scanner. 


The MRI is housed in an isolated room. Safety guidelines are in place to ensure that no metal objects are brought into the MRI room. Participants will be screened by a radiologist for any potential metal on or in their person that could exclude them from being able to participate in the study.   


Here is a partial list of types of things that could exclude you from the study if they are unable to be easily removed:
  • Metal plates or pins in your body
  • Metal implants related to heart surgery; pacemakers
  • Being wounded by bullets, shrapnel or metal filings which have not been fully removed
  • Older tattoos or permanent cosmetics which may contain metal in the ink
  • Piercings or metal jewelry of any kind
  • IUD 
Here is a partial list of types of things that should not be brought into an MRI room:
  • Piercings or metal jewelry of any kind
  • Credit cards, cell phones, coins
  • Pocket knives, pens
  • Eyeglasses (corrective lenses will be supplied)
  • Clothing (including underwire bras) that have metal in or on them

Individuals who are claustrophobic should also not volunteer to participate as the scanner bore is somewhat confining. Although the risks of MRI are minimal and the scans are not painful, it is possible that some individuals will feel discomfort. Some people are bothered by the loud noises and knocking and beeping sounds generated by the scanner. There is also a possibility that you may feel mild tingling or tapping sensations as nerves are stimulated. Due to the lack of information concerning the effects of MRI on a developing fetus, women who are, or think they may be, pregnant will be excluded from participating.


If at any time during the scan, you feel uncomfortable or wish to stop the procedure you will be able to do so.  


What Will Happen to Me During an fMRI Study?

Prior to going to fMRI room, you will meet with USD investigators in a private interview room to go over any questions and to consent to participate in the study. A radiologic specialist will also screen you to be sure that safety procedures set in place by the Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Radiology Department will be adhered to. Individuals may be asked to change into a gown, or street clothes may be MRIinUseallowed provided there are no metal zippers, wires or metal components that could interfere with the scan or create a risk to the individual.


Once in the MRI room you will be asked to lie on a MRI couch while your head is stabilized in the head coil. Ear protection (headphones) will be provided and will allow the researchers and radiologic specialist to communicate with you while you are in the scanner. Your hands will be positioned on a keypad, and an emergency stop button given to you so that you can stop the scan at any time. The MRI machine has a tunnel called its"bore" that you will be positioned in while the scans are obtained. The MRI couch will be slid into the bore of the scanner, and the fMRI experiment will begin. 


It is very important that you hold very still while in the scanner so that a clear picture of your brain will be obtained. A radiologic specialist will monitor you from another room, and you will be able to communicate with the radiologic specialist and the researcher through a microphone. While inside the scanner, you will be able to see a large screen in which words or pictures or instructions will be displayed. You will be asked to perform a series of tasks that will involve watching pictures, or very slight movements of a limb, or visualizing words, or simple counting tasks. Some of the tasks will require responses from you which you will enter on a keypad.   


What do Investigators Want to See and Do with Images Collected of My Brain? 
ScanExample (640x559)


The fMRI gives us a 3-D picture of the brain which is generated by magnetic waves. These 3-D pictures enable us to able to map which regions of the brain are activated by different tasks such as speech, motor control, emotions,memory and decision making. This information helps us to understand how the brain functions normally, to then help us better understand what happens in the brain during neurological and psychiatric disease states. 


We will keep all of your responses and images of your brain confidential. The data collected is for research purposes only and is not intended to provide any diagnosis. If the radiologic technologists should happen to find any indication of an abnormality or health concern based on your scan,you would be referred to the appropriate health care professionals for follow-up.      

How do I Prepare for My Scan?


For the most part, you may follow your usual daily routine. You will not need to fast or make any changes in diet or medications you take prior to coming in for the scan. The main consideration when preparing to participate on the day of the scan is that you try to wear clothing without any heavy metal fasteners. 


Things such as zippers, belt buckles, or underwire bras will have to be left out of the scanner room. The radiologic specialist will screen you before the scan to make sure that any street clothing is "scanner friendly" but if necessary you may be asked to change into a hospital gown. 


Try not to wear any metal jewelry, hairpins, watches, hearing aids, removable dental work or body piercings as all of this will also have to be removed before coming into the room with the MRI scanner.


Tooth fillings and braces are usually not affected by the magnet but should be mentioned to the radiologic specialist during screening as they may interfere with the quality of the image being captured during the scan. 


If you wear eyeglasses that have any metal on them, they will have to be removed for the scan. If you own prescription sports glasses or glasses with completely plastic frames, these will be fine. Otherwise, if you wish to participate and need corrective lenses, there is a range of corrective lenses available at the hospital designed specifically for use in the MRI scanner. You will need to bring your eyeglass prescription with you so that you can be fitted with the appropriate corrective lenses on the day of the scan. 


Women will need to inform the technician if they are pregnant or think there is a possibility that they may be pregnant. You will be asked this in the screening process. 


You will be asked about the potential of any metal objects in your body such as shrapnel, bullets or metal filings; particularly if you have been in combat or your occupation involves metal work. Some older tattoos may have iron in them and these can heat up during the MRI but it is seldom a problem. Inform the radiologist of any potential for these types of metals which may require you to have an X-ray prior to being placed in the scanner.