On this page you will find resources about what it entails to take part in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study.  The video below gives a great overview of fMRI studies, and how it works to generate pictures of your brain. Please note that we do not do “neuromarketing” research. This is just a nice general overview.

To learn more about MRI safety, please watch the following video:


All studies take place at the Auburn University MRI Research Center (AUMRIRC), located at 560 Devall Dr., in the Auburn University Research Park.   We recommend that you get to the center at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time.  Here is a map to our location, with the blue pin indicating the AUMRIRC:

When you arrive at the AUMRIRC, please proceed to the lobby.  Immediately on your left, you will see a door to another reception area.  Please proceed to this reception area.  The researcher(s) will meet you and give you further instructions at that time.

What is fMRI?
FMRI stands for functional magnetic resonance imaging.  FMRI measures a signal in the brain called the blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal (BOLD).  When parts of your brain become active, they recruit blood.  The blood delivers oxygen to the cells in your brain, called neurons.  When the blood delivers the oxygen, the blood’s magnetic properties change.  We use a big magnet (an MRI machine) to measure those changes, which are presumed to indicate what part of your brain is active.

What will be expected of me if I participate?
Every study is a little different.  You will be fully informed on all procedures of the study that you are going to participate in.  However, some procedures are standard across all fMRI studies.  These include the following:

  • You (and your parent or guardian, if you are under the age of 19) will be asked to sign a consent form.
  • You will be asked to fill out safety questionnaires that ask about your medical history so that we can determine if it is safe for you to enter the MR environment.
  • You will be asked to remove any jewelry or metal objects from your body.  This include any hair clips or pins.
  • You will be asked to change into scrubs.  You may keep your undergarments on.
  • We will ask you to step on the scale.  This allows us to calibrate the scanner to your weight.  We will also use a metal detector ‘wand’ to make sure you did not forget any jewelry, hair clips, etc.
  • You will be asked to lie very still for approximately 1 hour, or the length of the study as described to you by the researcher.
  • You will be given an emergency squeeze ball that allows you to contact the researcher(s) while you are in the scanner if you experience any discomfort, or if you would no longer like to participate in the study.
  • You will be asked to watch a computer screen while you are in the MRI machine.  You may be asked to perform certain tasks via the computer screen.  These tasks will be described to you in detail by the researcher(s) before you enter the scanner.  Please let the researcher know if you have any questions about these tasks prior to entering the magnet.

What are the risks of participating in a fMRI experiment?

  • The most obvious personal risk from having an MRI is blunt trauma due to metallic objects being brought into the magnetic field.  As such, all necessary steps will be taken to make sure neither you nor anyone else who enters the MRI scanner room is in possession of an unrestrained metal object and no unauthorized person will be allowed to enter the MRI scanner room.
  • Participants who have steel or iron implants or clips from surgery within their body or metallic objects such as shrapnel or metal slivers in their body, should not participate in this study as the magnetic field may pull these objects resulting in injury.
  • The MRI machine produces an intermittent loud noise that some people find annoying.
  • Some participants may feel uncomfortable being in an enclosed place (claustrophobia) and others find it difficult to remain still.  This may be more noticeable in 7T MRI scans due to the smaller bore size.
  • Some people may experience dizziness or a metallic taste in their mouth if they move their head rapidly in the magnet.
  • Some people experience a brief period of nausea when being put into or taken out of the scanner.  This is more prominent in 7T MRI scans due to the increased magnetic field and the effects of the shielding.
  • One of the potential risks to be considered in this study includes the risk of revealing personal and sensitive information on the part of the participant.  Participants will be asked personal questions regarding their health status.
  • Some people may feel pressure to perform well.  If this pressure becomes too stressful, you may opt to discontinue the experiment.
  • Some people may feel uncomfortable putting electrodes on, or taking electrodes off of their skin.  You and/or your child may choose not to participate.

What safety procedures will be followed to ensure my safety?

  • You will be asked to change into scrubs to ensure your clothing does not have any metallic components.  You will also be asked to remove any jewelry, hair clips, watches, and any other potentially metallic object.
  • You will be screened for metal using a metal detecting wand.
  • You will be asked information about your medical history to make sure that you are safe to enter the MR environment.
  • You will be given a squeeze ball that you can use to communicate with the researchers while you are in the MRI.
  • The researcher(s) will check on you between every scan to ensure you are doing ok.
  • We will maintain visual and verbal contact with you throughout the entire scanning session.
  • You may stop the scanning session at any time.