By volunteering as a research subject in the MEG Laboratory, you will be helping MIT scientists understand the working of the human brain and the causes of many brain disorders – work that may eventually contribute to the development of new treatments. Subjects are compensated for their time at rates that vary according to the study but typically range from $10-30/hr. Depending on the study, you may receive cash compensation at the time of your visit or you may be asked to fill out a form to receive a check payment by mail. Please note that studies conducted at MIT are for research purposes only. Research scans are not a substitute for clinical diagnostic tests, and we cannot provide medical advice to volunteer subjects.
If you would like to volunteer, please sign up for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences subject mailing list.
Helpful information for volunteer subjects
Please make every effort to arrive at the appointed time for your study. If you need to cancel, please inform the researcher on your study or the lab staff (tel 310-689-9576) as soon as possible, so that the scanning time slot can be reallocated to another research study.
A typical study visit lasts about 2 hours, although some may be either shorter or longer. Some studies may require several visits. Subjects may be asked to perform behavioral tests in the laboratory (usually involving a computer screen) in addition to undergoing a brain scan.
We recommend that you wear comfortable loose-fitting clothes for your visit. The lab temperature cannot be adjusted so it is best to wear layers. For EEG studies that involve fitting the system to the head, we recommend clothes that can be removed without being pulled over the head (eg cardigan or sweatshirt with zipper) .
There are several parking spaces outside the building that are reserved for volunteer subjects. Use of these spaces is by prior arrangement only. If you plan to drive, please contact lab staff for details.
Participating in a MEG experiment
MEG is completely noninvsaive, and does not involve exposure to radiation or strong magnetic fields. There are no known hazards associated with MEG scans.
The MEG scan involves sitting in a chair or lying on a bed while your head is positioned within a helmet-shaped cavity on the scanner. Inside this helmet is an array of highly senstive magnetic detectors, capable of detecting the very weak magnetic fields produced by brain activity.
The duration of a typical study is around one hour.
In most studies you will be alone inside the shielded room, but you will be in continuous communication with the experimenter via a 2-way audio system. The experimenter will also be able to see you via a CCTV camera within the shielded room.
Preparation for the scan involves attaching several wires to the face with adhesive pads, and recording the exact shape of the head using a digital pen. Most subjects experience little or no discomfort during this setup process, which lasts about 10 minutes.
You will be instructed not to bring any metal or electronic items into the magnetically shielded room (MSR), as these may damage the sensors. In particular, cell phones, pagers, cameras, flashlights and other electrical items are forbidden inside the MSR. You will also be asked to remove belts, shoes, keys, watches, coins, hair barrettes and pins, eyeglasses, and pieces of clothing with magnetic parts prior to entering the MSR. Hospital-style gowns are available if needed.
While in the scanner, depending on the study you may be asked to sit in the scanner without performing any task, or to respond to video/audio stimuli by pressing buttons. For certain studies you may perceive very weak somatosensory stimulation pulses, which are used to activate several brain regions and to explore cognitive function.
For some studies your eye movements may be recorded using a video camera as you watch the screen display.
Participating in an EEG study
Depending on the study, an electroencephalography (EEG) scan may be performed simultaneously with the MEG scan. EEG, like MEG, is completely noninvasive and involves no known hazards.
For EEG recordings, you will wear a cap, akin to swimming cap, with attached electrodes roughly the size of shirt buttons. Electrical conductivity between skin and the metal part of the electrode is established by applying water-based gel/saline between the electrode and skin.
The gel is unscented and can be washed away with water after the experiment. (Washing facilities are available within the lab).
The position of the electrodes will be recorded using a 3D digitizer system, which uses a pen-shaped sensor to mark the locations of the electrodes. Preparation for an EEG scan takes approximately 15-30 minutes.
Participating in an MRI study
MEG studies are often performed in conjunction with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which reveals the structure of the brain and allows us to locate the areas whose activity is recorded by the MEG scan.
A structural MRI scan lasts about 10 minutes, and also involves about 15 minutes of preparation time. You will be asked to lie still on a long table that slides into the bore of the scanner. During this time you will hear the sounds of the scanner, which can be loud at times. We will provide earplugs or earphones which you will be required to wear while inside the scanner.
MRI (unlike MEG or EEG) involves exposure to strong magnetic fields. The MRI procedures performed at MIT are considered completely safe for most people, provided they do not have any metal implants other than dental fillings. All subjects are screened before entering the MRI scanner, and a metal detector is used in case of uncertainty.
Further information can be found on the Martinos Imaging Center website.