Today I enjoyed another fantastic day at Bangor University. This visit however was a little different to normal. Rather than discussing studies and work that is done in MRI scanners…I was actually in one!
The Neuroimaging department were preparing for a visit from a Welsh consumer interest television programme that afternoon, so the team was able to double check that the process would run smoothly with me as a Guinea Pig. The study that was being done was a fascinating one. It involved me doing a shopping task while in the scanner…even more fun than taking a nap!
So when I arrived into the department the experiment was explained to me and then I went through a comprehensive safety questionnaire. MRI scanners are very safe for most people. Checks have to be made carefully to ensure you are one of those people. I was, so once I had removed my earrings, necklace, wedding rings, changed into trousers with no zips and (discretely) removed my bra I was ready to go.
Stepping into the big room that housed the scanner I felt excited knowing what great research comes from this and other machines like it. Climbing onto the narrow bench that slides into the doughnut shaped ring I felt anticipation building. This took a slight nosedive when the study lead Paul handed me some bright yellow ear plugs and asked if I knew how to use them. As I started to guide one towards my ear he said “clearly not” and proceeded to teach me the best technique for the little squidgy things. Big industrial looking ear muffs followed so the loud clanking of the machine wouldn’t be too uncomfortable when the scanning was in progress.
When I laid down on the bed a big mask type contraption came down over my face. Within this was cleverly positioned a mirror so I could see a screen behind me on which I could see images and text. The task I performed involved shopping with the outcome of buying food, some of it on varying special offers, for a party for 50 friends. I had a pad with four buttons on it for me to press to signal whether I wanted to buy 1, 2, 3 or none of the items that were shown to me.
The whole process lasted about 45 minutes and was quite fun. Knowing that this amazing machine was translating a physical process into images of my brain that neuroimaging experts were examining outside the room was great.