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 by the American Society of Functional Neuroradiology

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Patient Resources

MRI FAQs


MRI imaging is painless and non-invasive. These frequently asked questions will provide you with a good overview of the procedure.

What Is MRI?


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is one of the most accurate imaging modalities available today, allowing radiologists to visualize the inside of the human body without the use of ionizing radiation (x-ray). And because MRI does not use x-ray technology, it is completely safe.

How Does It Work?


MRI technology works by using a magnetic field, radio frequency waves and a computer. When a patient is placed inside the unit’s magnetic field, water molecules in the body naturally align themselves. The MRI unit then uses radio waves to pass through the body which cause the water molecules to move. Because radio waves are a very weak energy source–the same use in your radio–it is completely safe. The computer generates these signals into images on a special film giving a complete picture of the inside of the patient’s body.

What Is It Like To Have An MRI?


In general, you will lie down on a table, on your back, and will be placed into a tunnel-like structure. You will not see or feel anything. A knocking sound will be heard as the machine processes information. In most MRI centers you may be able to listen to music. Most MRI procedures will take about 30-45 minutes. During the exam, you will be in constant contact with the technologist.

Further Information
• Introduction to Functional MRI (University of Oxford)
• The Future Role of Functional MRI in Medical Applications (Columbia University)

fMRI Patient Preparation Video (Stanford University)