Child OCD & Anxiety Disorders Program


Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

To study the brain, our researchers use a tool called “functional magnetic resonance imaging” (fMRI). FMRI allows us to “see the brain at work,” which means we can see what it is doing during an activity such as watching a movie or playing a game.

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FMRI scanner at the University of Michigan Functional MRI Laboratory

Magnetic Resonance scans are non-invasive and do not use radiation. It is important to note that an MRI scanner is a very powerful magnet that can get quite loud. We ask our participants to remove anything metallic from their bodies, such as watches and jewelry. We will also provide earplugs and cushions around the head so that participants are as comfortable as possible while in the scanner.

Q: Will I get to practice?

A: Yes! Before you meet us at the fMRI lab for your first scan, a member of our research team will meet you at the Rachel Upjohn Building for a “mock scan” using a model of an MRI scanner (not a real magnet!). During this visit, you will practice lying still, learn the computer games you will play inside the real scanner, and get used to the noises the real scanner makes. Before the practice scan, you will receive a video via email of our research coordinators explain the screening day visit and mock scan.

Q: What should I do on the day of the MRI scan?

A: We recommend getting a good night’s sleep before coming for the actual MRI session. Please make sure that you remove all jewelry and wear a metal-free shirt (zippers or buttons on jeans are fine).

Q: Why do I have to lie still in the MRI scanner?

A: We are taking pictures of your brain. If you move in the scanner, the brain pictures will look blurry. We always have our participants practice lying still at the mock scan before we proceed to the actual MRI session.

Q: Why do I have to wear earplugs?

A: MRI scanners make loud knocking noises (listen to this video at high volume to get a sense for the sounds). We ask all our participants to wear earplugs for ear protection. We also provide cushions around the head to help muffle the sound. 

Adapted from “How is Magnetic Resonance Imaging Used to Learn About the Brain?” in Frontiers for Young Minds, June 2019

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

EEG is an easy and safe way to record electrical activity in the brain. To be able to measure this activity, we use a cap that is worn on the head. The cap has small holes in it, where will will place some gel and attach sensors, or “brain cell listeners.”

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