Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions to help guide you in your decision to participate.

What is fMRI?


fMRI stands for functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An MRI scanner is a large magnet that uses a safe, non-invasive magnetic field (one that doesn't use injections or radioactivity) to take a picture of the brain while it is working. We will be using it to take pictures of your child’s brain to see how it changes throughout development.


MRI is a great technique for understanding how the brain works. By having people perform simple tasks during the scan (such as listening to sounds or looking at pictures) we can see how the brain responds. So far, fMRI has enriched our understanding of various brain diseases and disorders as well as how the normal brain works and develops. Eventually, these discoveries will deepen our understanding of the healthy brain and help us diagnose and treat persons with brain disorders.


What does an MRI scanner look like?


Scanners differ slightly in size and shape. Below is a picture of the scanner at the Center for Translational Imaging:








What are the risks?


MRI is a harmless procedure as long as your child does not have any metal in or on his/her body. We take extra caution to ensure that your child is safe before entering the scanner. We will ask you to fill out a screening questionnaire on behalf of your child to screen your child for fMRI safety beforehand. In addition to the safety screening form, we will use a ferromagnetic detection device like the ones you see in airport security.


fMRI, like other imaging technologies in radiology, is FDA approved for its safety and effectiveness. It has been used to image adults and children since the 1980s and no short- or long-term biological side-effects have been reported from exposure to the magnetic fields or radio waves.


Does MRI expose my child to radiation?


No. Magnetic resonance imaging does not use X-rays and does not produce any radiation.


Is it safe for my child to have multiple scans?


There are no known measurable effects of repeated exposure to MRI  in children who are exposed to repeated MRI scans.

Will my child experience any discomfort?


Your child’s comfort and safety is our priority. The scanner makes knocking and beeping sounds while it is working, but we will give your child earplugs and/or headphones to protect his/her ears. We will also give them a button that they can press if they need to let us know that they are uncomfortable in the scanner.


Before your child goes into the MRI scanner, we will first make sure that your child is familiar and comfortable with the scanner and the procedures. We have a mock scanner room where your child will be free to explore a realistic replica of the brain scanner, but without the magnet. We will also practice the tasks so that your child will be prepared and relaxed. We will make sure that your child feels entirely comfortable with the brain scanner before we proceed with the brain scan.


It is important to note that the head compartment is small. People with claustrophobia or discomfort in tight spaces are discouraged from participating.


Who should NOT have an MRI? When is an MRI scan not advised?


Most people can have an MRI scan. However, some people with metal in the body cannot participate. Such metal includes: dental braces, permanent dental retainers, cochlear implant, aneurysm clip, neurostimulator, cardiac pacemaker and glasses with metal frames (if you bring your prescription, we will provide you with a temporary pair of glasses that are compatible with the MRI scanner). We will ask you to fill out a screening questionnaire on behalf of your child to screen your child for MRI safety before the scan.


Will I receive any medical information for a clinical diagnosis regarding my child's scan?


No. This is a research study and we will not be able to provide you with medical information or a clinical diagnosis regarding your child. The information collected at the end of the study will deepen our understanding of brain development and language processing in the brain. The information gained might eventually help with efforts in diagnosis and treatment of persons with learning and language difficulties.


How long will the entire visit take?


The visit will take 2 to 3 hours.


How long will my child be in the scanner?


Your child will be in the scanner 50 to 70 minutes.


If my child is uncomfortable, can they choose to stop or take a break from the procedure?


Of course! Your child’s comfort is our number one priority! Your child will have a headset with a microphone where they will communicate with us at least once every 10 minutes. They will also have a button bulb that they can press to let us know to come in and get them out of the scanner quickly. We can terminate the study and the scan at any point if you child ever feels uncomfortable.


Is there anything we need to do to prepare for the procedure?


We have posted a video to our website that you may show your child in the days leading up to the scan. The video includes the sounds they can expect to hear in the scanner, and shows them what an MRI machine looks like. You can discuss this video with your child. If any concerns come up that are not addressed here or in the video, be sure to call us. A member of our study team would be happy to discuss any concerns you or your child may have. You can also practice staying still with your child since that is important for a good MRI.

Right before the scan, do not have a big meal or drink a lot. Make sure that your child wears comfortable clothes without any metal.


Can I see or talk to my child while they are in the scanner?


Yes, you will be able to see and talk to your child in the MRI if it will help the child.


What kinds of tasks will they be completing in the scanner?


Your child will be dressed in comfortable clothes and s/he will lay down on a bed where s/he will try to be as still as s/he can. S/he will hold a game controller in her/his hand when completing the tasks. S/he will wear a mirror holder around her/his head - the mirror is what will allow her/him to be able to see the screen and play the games. S/he will wear earphones to listen to stories and to block out the scanner noise.


Is there any compensation for participating?


Yes. Your child will receive a certificate for completing the study and a gift card to a bookstore. Your child will also be receiving $100 for the first annual session and $125 for the second session, and you will be reimbursed for all travel-related expenses.


 ​© 2015 Language Development Project

                5848 South University Ave.

                Chicago, IL 60637