Empirical examination of the potential adverse psychological effects associated with pediatric fMRI scanning

Tomer Shechner, Naomi Wakschlag, Jennifer C. Britton, Johanna Jarcho, Monique Ernst, Daniel S. Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Over the past decade, the number of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies has increased dramatically. As MRI scans may be anxiety provoking, performing them in a research setting, particularly with children already prone to anxiety, raises questions about ethics as well as methodological feasibility. It is essential to address these questions before expanding the use of this technique to clinical settings, or more widely in the context of pediatric psychopharmacology and biological psychiatry research. The current study investigates the psychological reactions of anxious and non-anxious children and non-anxious adults to an fMRI scan. Methods: Eighty-seven anxious children, 140 non-anxious children, and 98 non-anxious adults rated their emotional reactions to an fMRI scan. Results: Results indicated that anxious and non-anxious children reported no greater anxiety after fMRI scanning than did adults. In addition, no age-related differences in distress were observed. These data demonstrate that anxious children, healthy children, and healthy adults have similar emotional reactions to fMRI scanning. Conclusions: The observed findings suggest that the potential for fMRI to produce anxiety should not impede its widespread use in clinical research, psychopharmacology, and biological psychiatry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-362
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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