Brain Pictures with Stanford RDRP

RDRP In-Person MRI Visits

At the RDRP, we’re interested in how the brain works and how it helps you read. This page will help you get acquainted with how we use the brain camera to learn about your brain!

Send our team an email if you have any specific questions- we can be reached at

About the MRI

MRI stands for “magnetic resonance imaging.” As the name suggests, the MRI uses a big magnet that helps a powerful computer take amazing pictures of your brain. MRI machines do not use x-rays like other imaging devices do. The machine looks like a small tunnel, some kids think it looks like a doughnut! The MRI does millions of calculations to create black and white pictures of your brain that we can restructure into 3D images like the ones below. These pictures help researchers learn more about how your brain works- from how your brain looks to how active certain parts of it are when you’re doing specific activities (like reading!).

These are some pictures of actual brains from some of our participants! If you’re super still in the scanner, we might be able to print you out a picture of your very own brain!

Using the Pretend MRI

Before you get in the real MRI machine, we’ll get you comfortable with getting your brain picture taken with our pretend MRI! We only do this on your very first visit. We’ll practice 3 things:

  • Stay super still! We’ll practice staying as still as a statue – moving your head and body (even scrunching your nose or saying something) can make it difficult for the brain camera to take clear pictures of your brain. The MRI, since it’s such a powerful machine, is affected by even the smallest movements. We want to make sure that you have super clear pictures of your beautiful brain! In the pretend MRI, you’ll learn to stay super still, so we can get clear pictures.

Can you tell which person moved in these pictures?

  • Get familiar with the funny noises! We’ll introduce you to some of the MRI noises you’ll hear while you’re in the scanner. The MRI makes all kinds of noises! Some kids say some of the sounds are like robot’s or trains. We’ll see if you agree!
  • Practice our games! You’ll take a look at some of the games that you’ll be playing while you’re in the real brain camera. We’ll get you familiarized with the controller you’ll use for the game!

The Real MRI

Before getting in the real MRI, we want to make sure you don’t have anything metal in or on you. Like we mentioned before, the MRI works like a big magnet, so taking metal into the scan room can be very dangerous. You should let one of us know if you have anything metal on you that cannot be removed (even if you don’t think it’s magnetic like a dental cap).

We’ll have you change into fancy Stanford MRI scrubs- like the ones the kids to the left are wearing- so that we can really make sure we don’t take anything into the scanner that might be unsafe (we’ll try to save a minute for your parents to take a quick photo of you!)

You’ll get a chance to pick anything on Netflix Kids to watch while you’re in the scanner! A few stables we’ve seen a lot are: Penguins of Madagascar, The Bad Guys, and Home.

We’ll give you some earplugs to block out some of the MRI noises. There’s a speaker in the scanner that we use to talk to you and so that you can talk to us. The MRI machine will take a couple of different kinds of pictures and for some of them, we’ll have you watching specific things or doing some of our activities, but our team will let you know when you can rest your eyes and sleep! It’s a little cold in the scanner, so we bundle you up with blankets.

We’re including some pictures here of kids who got in the brain camera and what their preparation for the scanner looked like!

Visit Layout

Generally, this is the layout that most visits will follow:

  • Practice with the pretend MRI (30 minutes)
  • Scanning (45 – 60 minutes)
    • ——– Snack break (30 minutes) ——–
  • Reading & thinking activities (30 minutes)
  • Scanning (45 – 60 minutes)

Visit layouts vary by project! Generally, there is some prep time at the beginning for getting situated and a break between scanning (with provided snacks and activities!).

On the day of Your Visit

Remember, to go into the MRI you will need to be metal-free, so make sure you come without jewelry or makeup (unless they are things that can easily be taken off!).

You’re welcome to bring your siblings if your parents would like! We have things to keep everyone busy- we’ll even have a little bit of homework (a few surveys) for your parent to do while you’re busy getting your brain picture taken. We’ll have plenty of snacks and activities for you to do in your down time if we end up having extra time!

Each visit will look slightly different, but we hope that during your first visit you have a chance to get comfortable with the MRI and are excited to see what your beautiful brain looks like!

. . . . p.s. you’ll get fun prizes after each of your scans!

We look forward to seeing you soon!