Information for participants

Research participants are needed for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies at the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center. Our research studies are conducted on two MRI scanners in the Duke University Medical Center. Functional MRI uses a strong magnetic field to take pictures of the brain. It is non-invasive and safe, and does not involve injections or use ionizing radiation. The only restrictions for participation are that you must be at least 18 years of age to volunteer for studies at BIAC, and you must meet the subject criteria listed below.

What do the experiments study?

Our experiments investigate many topics in cognitive and clinical neuroscience. We study what parts of the brain are responsible for visual perception, how information is held in memory, how people make predictions about future events, and many other topics.

What happens during the experiments?

When you come in for a study, you will begin by meeting an experimenter at BIAC. The experimenter will explain the procedures of the study and will answer any questions that you may have. The experimenter will discuss consent and screening forms with you, to ensure both that you understand the study and that you can safely participate. Once you are ready to begin the experiment, you will lie down on a platform next to the MR scanner. An experimenter will center your head on the platform, and will put padding around the sides of your head for comfort. Then, the platform will slowly move into the center of the MR scanner. You will be able to see outside of the scanner by looking at a mirror, and you will be able to talk with the experimenters through a two-way intercom system. Most studies last between 1 and 2 hours. Depending on the experiment, you will watch pictures on a screen, listen to words or music, remember or count stimuli, and/or press buttons to indicate your judgments about stimuli. During the scanning session, the experimenters will talk with you to see how you are doing. As in all research at Duke, you will be free to stop participating in the study at any time you choose. At the end of the session, the experimenters will explain the procedures and goals of the study to you, will show you pictures of your brain, and will answer any questions that you have about the study. Female subjects may be asked to have a pregnancy test (blood serum) before participating in MRI studies.

How much will I get paid?

Research participants are compensated for their participation in the study. Most studies are scheduled for one to two hours and pay between $10/hour and $20/hour. Duke University requires that we collect Social Security numbers for payments.

Who cannot participate in the studies?

You cannot participate in the study if you have implanted metal in your body that would be affected by the strong magnetic field. If any of the following apply to you, you cannot participate in any research MRI studies.

  • Cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator
  • Insulin or infusion pump
  • Cochlear, otologic, or ear implant
  • Any implant held in place by a magnet
  • Tissue expanders (plastic surgery)
  • Implanted catheter, clamp, clips, valves, or other metal
  • Tattoos or permanent makeup above shoulders
  • Shrapnel or metal fragments
  • Ever had metal removed from eye
  • Ever worked as a metal worker

There may be additional exclusion criteria that vary from study to study. For example, many studies do not allow anyone with implanted metal of any kind to participate. It may be helpful to review the screening form used in BIAC research studies, which is available for download here:

Will I receive any medical evaluation?

BIAC research does not serve as a medical evaluation, and will be of no direct medical benefit. The research scans that we use in our studies are not the same as those used in diagnostic clinical studies. The BIAC research scans will not be read by a radiologist and cannot be used to diagnose or treat any condition. If you believe that you need a MRI scan for health reasons, please contact a physician.

Who do I contact to participate?

If you would like more information about participating in research studies at BIAC, please contact our Subject Coordinator via email.