Volunteering for an MRI at the Florey

A large number of research studies are performed at the Florey each year. It’s important for everyone that we understand how our bodies and brain work.

Florey scientists are working hard to advance our current knowledge of normal brain function to understand how diseases can be stopped.

Some of the conditions we’re currently researching include: epilepsy, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, mental illness and depression.

Most of these studies also require healthy volunteers for comparison.

Volunteering for an MRI study





What is MRI?

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging and unlike X-rays or CT scans, does not use ionizing radiation, i.e., radiation that can affect human tissue (e.g. X-rays). MRI instead uses a strong magnet and radio waves to take detailed images of the body.  As well as taking detailed anatomical pictures, MRI can show information about disease processes, body chemistry (MRI spectroscopy) and brain function (fMRI).


Volunteering for an MRI study?

MRI study participants are recruited by investigators to suit the specific inclusion criteria of their study. Participants may include healthy participants and participants from specific patient groups. If you are interested in participating as a volunteer, keep an eye out for targeted calls made by study investigators for volunteers for brain imaging studies. Whilst the Florey MRI facility does not directly recruit participants, it is important for us to know that it is OK for you to have a scan with us. If you have had any accidents involving metal, or any medical procedures in the past, it may mean that it would not be safe for you to have an MRI scan. The study investigators will therefore first check to ensure that it is safe for you to have a scan at our facility.

What does an MRI Scan involve?

In an MRI scan you will be required to lie on a bed that moves into a scanner. The part of the body that is being imaged needs to be in the middle of the scanner. The scanner is open at both ends and doesn’t move or change in any way during a scan. It’s just a big camera. You can see out of the scanner via a mirror to watch a movie, otherwise, you can close your eyes and relax. You don’t feel anything in particular during the MRI scan and the radiographers will try to make you as comfortable as possible. The scanner makes a loud “knocking” noise when it takes the pictures so you will be provided with hearing protection for the scan. During your scan, the radiographer will sit at the computer outside the scanner room to take the pictures. They can see you the whole time and will talk to you between the pictures to make sure you’re OK. You’ll also be provided with a call buzzer if you’d like their attention sooner.

MRI scans take between 30mins - 2 hours, however, most MRI sessions are only about an hour long from start to finish. During an MRI scan a variety of pictures are taken. The length of each picture varies anywhere from 20 seconds to 15 minutes (depending on the study you’re involved in).

Depending on the study, you may be required to do an activity in the scanner but you will be notified of this before your appointment.

Is MRI safe?

MRI is safe and considered a low risk imaging technique. MRI does not involve ionizing radiation (such as X-rays) and there are no known side effects of an MRI scan. However, since MRI involves strong magnetic fields, it is important that certain types of metal are not taken into the scanner. The researcher and the radiographers will check beforehand that it is safe for you to go into the scanner.

Before the MRI scan

MRI Safety Check? Before your MRI scan is booked, it’s important for us to determine if it’s OK for you to have a scan with us. A researcher will go through a questionnaire with you, about your medical history. If you’ve had any accidents involving metal, or any medical procedures in the past, it’s important to let them know. They will ask for details of previous surgeries, and any medical imaging you’ve had (e.g. CT scans, X-rays, MRI scans etc.).

Do I need to fast for the scan? No, fasting is not required in order to have an MRI scan. However, it is possible that fasting could be required as part of a particular research study, in which case your study coordinator will inform you of that before your scan.

Can I have a practice first? Of course! If you feel that you’d like a practice MRI before a real one, contact your study coordinator and they will arrange for you to have a mock MRI scan. A mock MRI scanner is a practice MRI scanner that mimics the sounds and equipment of the MRI environment. One of our staff will guide you through what is involved in an MRI.


On the day of your MRI scan

Where do I go?

The MRI scanners are located on the ground floor of the Melbourne Brain Centre Building in Heidelberg, Victoria (13 km north-east of Melbourne’s central business district). Entry to the MRI department is adjacent the lifts next to reception.

The Florey (Austin Campus)

245 Burgundy St,

Heidelberg, 3045



Travelling by Car

There are several options for parking at Heidelberg.

  • Street parking: limited metered parking and 2 hour parking on the streets around the Austin Hospital.
  • Free onsite parking at the Melbourne Brain Centre. Places are limited and must be arranged via your study coordinator/research assistant.
  • Parking in the Austin Tower public parking block (fee per hour), enter from Studley Rd.

Public Transport

  • Heidelberg train station is 700m away (10 minutes walk)
  • Buses 513, 551 and 903 stop adjacent the Melbourne Brain Centre.

If you have any queries about how to get to the Melbourne Brain Centre please call (03) 9035 7000

How early do I need to arrive for my MRI scan? We ask that you arrive half an hour before your appointment time. This is so we have enough time to explain the scan to you, answer any questions you may have, complete the MRI questionnaire, and allow you to change into hospital clothing (if required).

What do I need to bring? If you have trouble remembering, it’s helpful to bring a list of your current medication and previous medical procedures/operations.

On occasion, your study coordinator may ask you to bring old x-rays, CT or MRI scans.

Will there be somewhere secure to store my belongings? We provide secure lockers for your valuables to keep them safe while you’re having your scan.

Consent: Children require consent from a parent or guardian to participate in MRI studies at the Florey. A parent/guardian is also required to complete the questionnaire and help provide information for their child/ward’s MRI safety check.

Can I watch a movie or listen to music during my scan? For most scans you will be able to watch a movie or listen to music. We have a selection of movies and documentaries, and access music via the internet. If you have a particular DVD or CD at home that you’d like to watch, bring it along and we’ll play it for you.

Is it Noisy? MRI scanners make a “banging” or “knocking” sound when taking the pictures. We always use headphones, earplugs or earmuffs to help protect your ears. Please let us know if you are particularly sensitive to loud noises so we can do our best to accommodate you.

How long does it take? Your scan will take from 30 mins to 2 hours, however, most scans are only about an hour long from start to finish, depending on the study you’ve volunteered for. Your study coordinator will let you know what length of scan is required for your study.

Do I have to wear particular clothing? We ask that you wear clothing made of natural fibres (e.g. cotton) and free of metallic parts for your scan. We have hospital clothing to change into, if required.

Keeping Still? The MRI pictures come out better if you lie still while they’re being taken. Like any photograph, if you move during a scan, the pictures come out blurry. It’s important to relax, just breathe normally, blinking is allowed!

We’ll try and make you as comfortable as possible to help you relax. We have pillows, cushions and blankets. Please let us know if you require any extra padding, or if you have a particular injury that might need extra support.

Can I have a break part way through the scan? Yes, if you require a break during the scan, we can do that. However, please be aware that sometimes this might mean an extra picture or two.

What if you find an abnormality in my images? Research studies carried out at the Florey are designed to improve our knowledge and are not designed for clinical purposes.

You should be aware that sometimes even in completely healthy people, minor abnormalities are found. On extremely rare occasions, we might find an abnormality which may need further investigation; however, it is important to know that the research MRI pictures are taken to answer a specific research question; hence, not all abnormalities may be seen on these pictures. If you have any concerns regarding your health you should always in the first instance contact your GP. Please feel free to discuss this with your researcher if you have any questions.

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