Welcome to Novant Health Go


We use fMRI to take pictures
of your brain

Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that helps our doctors map different areas of the brain. Using an MRI scanner, we can capture thousands of pictures of the brain to pinpoint the locations of the brain’s most essential functions such as bodily movement, language and memory. fMRI plots these functions by detecting changes in blood flow and oxygen levels while you are asked to answer a series of questions and perform tasks that use specific brain functions. It is often performed before brain surgery to map the different functional areas of the brain.

Preparing for an fMRI exam

The scanner is a highly sensitive magnetic device. To avoid possible injury and ensure the highest degree of accuracy, it is important that you:

  • Remove all metal including jewelry, hair ornaments, watches, and coins.
  • Remove all makeup prior to the exam.
  • Avoid drinking coffee or large volumes of fluid prior to your scan.

You may continue to take regular medications prior to your exam.

An fMRI requires the participant to lie still inside the scanner for up to 1.5 hours. Tell your physician if you feel uncomfortable or claustrophobic in a small space. 

For your safety

Notify your doctor or the technologist performing the exam if:

  • You have allergies of any kind, such as an allergy to iodine or X-ray contrast material, drugs, food, the environment, or asthma.
  • There is any possibility that you are pregnant.
  • You have serious health problems or have recently had surgery.

Also, notify your doctor or the technologists performing the exam if you have any of the following:

  • A cardiac pacemaker
  • Eye implants or metal ear
  • Claustrophobia
  • Penile implants
  • Metal implants
  • Shrapnel, bullets, or bullet fragments
  • Implanted medical devices
  • Aneurysm clips

Some MRI exams require the patient to consume a contrast medium (either by mouth or intravenously) to create a better image. If you have allergies or asthma, there is a slight risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast. Most reactions result in itchiness or hives. If you have asthma and have an allergic reaction to the contrast medium, you may experience an asthma attack. In very rare instances, an allergic reaction may cause swelling in your throat or other areas of your body. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or thyroid conditions also increase your risk of reaction to the contrast medium. Tell your technologist or doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms during or after your exam. Our staff and physicians are prepared should any type of emergency situation occur.

Important: Parents will not be allowed to remain in the MRI room with children who require sedation.

What to expect during an fMRI exam

fMRI exams are painless and typically last about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

During the exam, you will be positioned on a moveable examination table and your head may be placed in a brace with a mask designed to help you keep still. You may also be given goggles and/or earphones so audio-visual stimuli may be administered during the scan.

If a contrast material will be used, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm.

You will be asked to complete a number of small tasks such as tapping your thumb against each of the fingers on the same hand, rubbing a block of sandpaper or answering simple questions. When the examination is complete, your IV will be removed and you may be asked to wait until the technologist or radiologist checks the images in case additional images are needed.

When your exam is complete, you can leave and resume regular activities. If a sedative is administered for your exam, you will need to arrange transportation home.


A radiologist will review your exam images and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the findings and next steps with you.