Here are some answers to common questions we've been asked. If any of the information you seek is not available here, please feel free to email or call us for an answer.


What should I do if my child is interested in participating?
Please fill out the form on the Participate page. A Research Assistant will contact you shortly after the form is received.

Is my participation and the findings of the studies confidential?
Any data that may be published in scientific journals will not reveal the identity of the subjects. The use of data acquired during the child’s participation in this project will be limited to research and educational purposes only.

What is the compensation for an MRI scan?
Your child will receive a $50 check for each MRI scan in the mail 2-3 weeks after the scan, as well as pictures of his or her brain to take home on the day of the scan.

What is an MRI scan?
The Stanford Math Project uses both MRI and fMRI scans. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique most commonly used to visualize the internal structure and function of the body. The MRI takes structural pictures of the brain. Functional MRI (fMRI) is a type of MRI scan. It measures blood-flow response related to neural activity in the brain.

Who cannot be scanned?
If the child has any history of head or eye injury involving metal fragments, implanted electrical device (such as a cardiac pacemaker), or severe heart disease (including susceptibility to arrhythmias), the child should not have an MR scan. If the child has had eye surgery to remove metal fragments from the globe (eyeball), then the child should not have an MRI scan. Also, children with claustrophobia should not be scanned.

How long does the scan take?
The child will be in the scanner for about 1.5 hours. He or she will solve math problems and watch short videos in the scanner, so your child will be busy the entire time. We schedule a 2.5 hour appointment to allow enough time for you to fill out the consent forms and for your child to practice the scanner tasks on a laptop computer before entering the scanner suite.

Will I get any feedback about my child’s scan?
Since this scan is for research purposes, we are unfortunately unable to offer any individual feedback. You will not receive any results from the scan.

Will you be able to tell me if something looks wrong during the scan?
If anyone identifies anything unusual in the scan, they consult the Lucas Center for Imaging staff. If Lucas Center staff determines there is cause for concern, a research assistant will contact your child’s physician, who would then inform you of the abnormality. It is extremely rare that an abnormality is detected. Additionally, our scans are for research purposes and are at a lower resolution than is typically used for clinical scans, and are not designed for detecting abnormalities.

Are MRIs safe?
An MRI scan is a safe, FDA-approved, non-invasive procedure. Since 2005, over 120 children ages 7-9 have safely completed MRI scans for the Stanford Math Brain Project.

Where can I read more about MRI?
You can read more about MRI scans at the Radiology Info Organization website by clicking here. This website offers a comprehensive description of MRI scans. Please keep in mind that the Stanford Math Project does not use x-rays, radiation, injections, contrast material, or sedation of any kind.

Are there any side effects of MRI?
The most common side effects reported are dizziness, heat sensations, and claustrophobia. These side effects generally go away shortly after the scan.

If my child is uncomfortable, can you stop the scan?
Yes. The child is able to communicate with us throughout the entire scan. Your child holds a small squeeze-ball during the scan that can be squeezed at any time. If the ball is squeezed, we will stop the scan and check in with your child immediately.
We strongly encourage you to watch the “Preparing for your MRI scan” video with your child prior to the scan appointment. The DVD walks your child through the entire scan appointment, so your child will be familiar with the scanning procedure.

We listened to the “MRI Sounds” – is the scan really that loud?
The scan is very loud. All participants are required to wear earplugs in the scanner, which blocks much of the noise. Most participants report that the earplugs are sufficient to block out the noise. If you believe your child might be particularly sensitive to noise, we also have a pair of noise-blocking headphones your child can wear over the earplugs.

What should my child wear to the scan?
Most children wear everyday clothing to the scan, such as sweatpants or jeans, and a t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt.
The researchers will thoroughly look over your child for the presence of any metal before entering the magnet suite and decide if your child needs to change into the Lucas Center-provided pants and gowns. Please note that all loose metal must be removed before the scan. This includes glasses, jewelry, watches, hair clips, bobby pins, etc. If your child has had recent orthodontic work or piercings done, please give us a call. We may need to reschedule or cancel the appointment.