fMRI is an imagining technique using a very strong magnet. It was developed in order to map areas of the brain that are working to perform various activities. The technology primarily relies on the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response, which is an indirect measure of blood flow in the brain. We know that blood flows to certain areas of the brain when those areas are more active. fMRI uses the magnetic properties of hemoglobin in red blood cells to create an image of cerebral activity. It is considered a safe, noninvasive technique that allows for repeated examinations over time.
What to expect:
The fMRI is carried out using a specialized MRI scanner. The child first meets with the neuropsychologist, who will explain the fMRI procedure and practice the activities that will be done in the scanner. During the fMRI, the child lies on the scanner bed, a head coil is placed over the head and soft pads are put in place to help hold the child's head in the correct position. Sometimes headphones and small mirrors are used to help present the different activities to the child. The child must lie very still the entire length of the scan which can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. During the scanning, the child is presented with various tasks to perform. Each task typically lasts about 5 minutes. For example, motor tasks might involve tapping fingers, wiggling toes or moving lips to help identify areas of the brain involved in motor activities. The parent remains in the waiting while the child works with the neuropsychologist and technician to complete the fMRI.