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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) procedure as experienced by healthy participants and stroke patients – A pilot study

André J Szameitat12*, Shan Shen1 and Annette Sterr1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK

2 Department of Psychology, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany

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BMC Medical Imaging 2009, 9:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2342-9-14

Published: 31 July 2009

Abstract

Background

An important aspect in functional imaging research employing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is how participants perceive the MRI scanning itself. For instance, the knowledge of how (un)comfortable MRI scanning is perceived may help institutional review boards (IRBs) or ethics committees to decide on the approval of a study, or researchers to design their experiments.

Methods

We provide empirical data from our lab gained from 70 neurologically healthy mainly student subjects and from 22 mainly elderly patients suffering from motor deficits after brain damage. All participants took part in various basic research fMRI studies using a 3T MRI scanner. Directly after the scanning, all participants completed a questionnaire assessing their experience with the fMRI procedure.

Results

87.2% of the healthy subjects and 77.3% of the patients rated the MRI procedure as acceptable to comfortable. In healthy subjects, males found the procedure more comfortable, while the opposite was true for patients. 12.1% of healthy subjects considered scanning durations between 30 and 60 min as too long, while no patient considered their 30 min scanning interval as too long. 93.4% of the healthy subjects would like to participate in an fMRI study again, with a significantly lower rate for the subjects who considered the scanning as too long. Further factors, such as inclusion of a diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) scan, age, and study duration had no effect on the questionnaire responses. Of the few negative comments, the main issues were noise, the restriction to keep still for the whole time, and occasional feelings of dizziness.

Conclusion

MRI scanning in the basic research setting is an acceptable procedure for elderly and patient participants as well as young healthy subjects.