How do we recruit participants for our studies?

As we are interested in early brain development, we typically recruit parents or caregivers of children 0-5 years of age for our studies. We recruit participants via email, flyers distributed at pediatric clinics, centers and events and our website. If you are interested in participating in one of our studies, you can either email us (see “Contact Us” page for contact information) or enter your information on the “Sign Up” page. Once you have indicated your interest in participating in one of our studies, a member of our research team will reach out via email to schedule a screening call to determine if you and your child are eligible for a study.

What does participation in a study entail?

Participation in our studies typically involves three parts: (1) a MRI brain scan during natural sleep, (2) a behavioral and cognitive ability assessment and (3) completing questionnaires. The brain scan and behavioral assessment are administered by highly-trained research staff at the Waisman Center and are completed by the child. The questionnaires are usually filled out by a parent or caregiver at home and/or online.

Our research focuses on the development of the brain over time. Thus, some of our studies may involve multiple visits to the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison over the course of a year or more. For these studies, at each time point, there will be a brain scan and behavioral assessment to complete and questionnaires to fill out.

What studies are we currently recruiting for?

MRI ScannerNeuroimaging Methods to Assess Brain Development
The Neuroimaging Methods to Assess Brain Development study aims to develop brain imaging techniques that will be used in a future, large-scale study focusing on how different experiences and/or exposures influence early brain development. The study is being conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


infant climbing three stairsBrain Imaging of Baby Siblings (BIBS) Study
The primary goal of the BIBS study is to determine how differences in brain structure and function develop in autism (ASD) over the course of infancy and early childhood. We hope to learn how these differences develop by following the brain development of children with an older sibling with an ASD diagnosis and children without a family history of ASD. The study is being carried out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with funding provided by the National Institutes of Mental Health.


What happens after participation in a study?

After each visit to the Waisman Center, you will be compensated for your time and participation. You will also receive an image of your child’s brain and your child will receive a small gift.

The data we collect from brain scans, behavioral assessments and questionnaires are for research purposes only. Members of our research team who assist with processing and analyzing these images have not been trained to look for abnormalities or diseases. However, neuroradiologists do review each brain scan that is performed and in the unlikely event that something unusual was detected, we would inform you and your family. It would be likely that your child would need to have a clinical brain scan. We would be happy to pass along our research images to the physicians if it would be helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is an MRI scan like an X-Ray or CT-Scan?

No! X-rays and CT-scans use radiation whereas MRIs use magnetic fields and radiowaves to images of the brain.

Is an MRI scan safe for children?

Yes, MRIs are safe! During an MRI scan, a person is placed within a magnet bore, which generates a magnetic field, and radio waves are emitted and received by radio frequency coils. These signals produce digital images. There are no known risks associated with exposure to the magnetic field.

Are MRIs loud?

MRIs built for adults can be very loud, but with soundproofing and special design, the MRI for your child will be as loud as a casual conversation, which will be further reduced by using noise-canceling headphones designed for toddlers, allowing your infant to sleep through the scan.

Can I learn more about the research before agreeing to participate?

Absolutely! We can arrange an information session where you can tour the facility, see the scanner, meet the research team and ask any questions that you might have about the study. We can also answer any questions by email or phone.

Why does my child have to be asleep during the scan?

Movement can make MRI images blurry and hard to read. For children under 4 years, it is easier to scan them while they are asleep. Older children can often go into the scanner awake and stay still while watching a favorite movie or TV show.

Do you use sedatives to put my child to sleep?

No! We schedule scans during normal nap or sleep times. You and your child can go to a private room to have your child relax and fall asleep.

Can I be in the scanner room during the scan?

Absolutely, we encourage it actually! As long as you pass the screening and have no metal implants, pacemakers, etc., you are more than welcome to be in the scanner room.

What if I want to stop participating?

You can stop your participation in the study before, during, or after the scan. Just tell us and we will stop everything.

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