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Is MRI safe?

Yes! There is a lot of incorrect information regarding MRI safety available on the internet. After 30 years of clinical and research imaging, no peer-reviewed study has shown any long-term negative effects associated with MRI. the FDA considers MRI to be a ‘non-significant’ risk when performed within specified parameters. Our studies meet all of these safety measures.

Is MRI like an x-ray?

No! X-rays and CT scans use ionizing radiation to create an image. MRI does not use ionizing radiation. Instead, MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio-waves (similar to those of an FM radio) to make images of the brain.

Is MRI loud?

MRI scanners built for adults can be very loud, reaching more than 140 dB (almost as loud as a rock concert). Through the use of sound proofing and special sequence design, we have reduced this to less than 60 dB- the same as a casual conversation. To reduce noise further, we use noise-attenuating headphones specially designed for infants and toddlers. As a result, infants can sleep through the scans. 

What happens during the MRI scan?

The first hour of the appointment will be used to make your child as comfortable as possible so that they are able to fall asleep. Once asleep, your child will be transferred from the patient preparation room into the MRI scanner room. They will be placed onto the MRI bed on their back, proper hearing protection will be put in place, along with the head coil. Metal-free blankets and cushions will be used to ensure your child is comfortable and safe. A research assistant will be present at all times during the scan to ensure your child’s safety. Our research scans may last anywhere from 25-60 minutes depending on the specific project. If your child wakes up or becomes uncomfortable at any point during the scan, they will be removed immediately from the scanner. If he/she is able to go back to sleep, we will resume the scan with your permission.

Do you use sedation to put my child to sleep?

No! We schedule scans during normal nap or sleep time. We have private rooms where you and your child can relax and fall asleep. Once asleep, we will move your child into the scanner.

Why do you image my child when they are asleep?

Just as taking pictures of a moving object causes blurry photos, moving during an MRI scan also causes blurry images. By imaging children (under 4 years of age) while they sleep, we can be sure they will stay still for the whole scan.

What should I expect when I bring my child in for the MRI?

For our research scans, your child will not be exposed to any form of contrast or sedation. This means that we do not inject anything into him/her and we will not be forcing him/her to fall asleep. Your child will be naturally asleep during the MRI scan. They will wear medical grade ear protection in order to protect their hearing and to keep them from waking up during the scan. Due to the strong magnetic field present inside the MRI, your child will need to be metal-free and change into hospital scrubs. If you decide to enter the scanner room with your child, you will also need to remove all metal objects and change into hospital scrubs. Only one parent is permitted to enter the MRI room with the child, per hospital regulation.

Can I be in the room with my child during the scan?

As long as you have no metal implants, pacemaker, etc., we encourage you to be in the scanner room along with your child. A research assistant will also be in the room the entire length of the scan.

How should I prepare my child for the MRI scan?

Preparation for the MRI scan will depend on the age of your child. However, the following are some general guidelines that our lab has found to increase the success rate for MRI scans in infants and toddlers:


  • Try to ensure your child is asleep on his/her back during the nights leading up to the scan.

  • Bathe your child immediately prior to the appointment if that is routine.   

  • Bring a peaceful props, such as a favorite book, toy, blanket, bottle, pacifier, or stuffed animal to the appointment in order to create a more familiar environment.        

  • Bring a bedtime snack if this is part of your child’s normal routine.

  • Do not let your child nap in the car on the way to the appointment.        

  • Try to not let your child nap during the 5 hours prior to your appointment at the hospital. Anything you can do to tire your child out during the day would be helpful!

  • Practice by placing ear buds in your child's ears when falling asleep during nights leading up to the scan (if they are provided).

  • Listen to MRI sounds to familiarize your child with them.

  • Watch the child-friendly cartoon depiction of the MRI scan.

What if I want to stop the scan?

Participating in our research is 100% voluntary, so you may stop at any time. If you are uncomfortable before or during the scan, we can stop the study visit or MRI scan.   

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