What To Expect At The Advanced Baby Imaging Lab

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We bring you this information as part of our partnership with the Advanced Baby Imaging Lab. We are proud to promote the Advanced Baby Imaging Lab and help spread the word about the research they are conducting.

This is my child’s brain on Paw Patrol. 

Actually, I think he was watching a nature video, but that doesn’t make for as good of an opening line now does it? 

Ok. Let me back up and give you some context. The above video is my son’s MRI. Don’t fret, he didn’t get a concussion and we’re not trying to diagnose anything, he underwent an MRI as part of the Advanced Baby Imaging Lab’s research project studying how a child’s environment impacts their brain development. 

Participation in the study has several parts, the most potentially intimidating of which is the MRI portion. When I heard about the various parts of the Advanced Baby Imaging Lab’s study I wasn’t worried about the evaluations they’d do – I’d actually performed those same tests on many kids when I’d worked for Early Intervention and I knew that kids typically found them fun. I wasn’t concerned about filling out paperwork – I have to do that for school and daycare and nobody gives me a Target card to do it (spoiler alert- the Lab does!).

But the MRI? I wasn’t quite as sure about that.

I’m a therapist and am fascinated by the brain, so for me, the intrigue of actually getting to peek inside my children’s brains was a huge draw. But still, I was wary. After all, for my two-year-old, the MRI would have to occur while she was asleep, and for it to work with my older two they would have to lie still in the scanner. Successfully getting my two-year-old to sleep in the unfamiliar environment of the Advanced Baby Imaging Lab or getting my four-year-old to be still for an hour? Both of these things seemed improbable. But (with some shenanigans, more about that below) the improbable happened and all three of my kids had successful scans. 

And I’ve got something extra fun to add to the baby books – pictures of their brains. And while the MRI images won’t help me answer the question of “what was she thinking???” when my two-year-old draws on the walls *again*, at least I know I’m contributing too important brain research. Also, I can use some of those Target gift cards I earned to buy Magic Erasers. 

My tips if you’re thinking about enrolling in the study? 

If you have a younger child who will be doing a sleeping scan remember that the researchers are lovely and patient and used to waiting around. In every bit of correspondence they say “remember, we plan our night around you, don’t rush, don’t worry”, but still I found myself stressing out when it was taking a long time to put my daughter to sleep. We co-sleep, so trying to figure out how to get her to fall asleep without me lying next to her nursing was a challenge & admittedly it didn’t work the first time – mostly because I rushed trying to get her to sleep. But the lab techs were lovely and patient (and I was still compensated for my time, even though we didn’t get a successful scan the first time) and we were able to get a successful scan (by having her fall asleep in the car and transferring her to the scanner). Remember that you know your kid best and don’t be afraid to tell them what you think will work. The researchers also tell me that it’s typically much easier with the younger babies. 

If you have older kids, talk it up. For my kids, at least, this worked well. My four year old tends to get pretty nervous and I was sure he was going to freak out, but for the whole day I talked about how he was going to get to watch a movie in a rocket ship (they have a great space ship mural they put on the outside of the scanner when using it with other kids), when we arrived he hopped right in and did great. They use noise-canceling headphones to the kids weren’t bothered by the noise at all & both of my boys are pretty sensitive to sounds. 

To learn more or to participate in one of the ongoing studies, fill out the information on this page or email the Baby Lab at {[email protected]com}. You can also call (401)338-6943 with general questions. 


The Advanced Baby Imaging Lab conducts a variety of studies to help Little Brains do Big Things. Our studies focus on understanding early brain development – how our brain grows, and how that growth can be impacted by things like nutrition, the environment, and our genes.  As a result, our studies often involve collecting a variety of information about your infant or child as well as you and the rest of the family.  A central part of our research involves using magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI) to take detailed images of your child’s brain.  MRI allows us to visualise the brain’s shape and size, as well as investigate it’s functional and structural connections.  In addition to MRI, we also play games with your child to understand their motor, language, memory, vision, and other skills.  We may also collect height and weight information, assess body composition and metabolic rate, and ask questions about their diet or sleep routine.  All of this information is handled confidentially and is not shared without your explicit consent.  You can learn more about our specific studies here, or feel free to contact us to learn more or ask any questions.