Understanding MRI – Outstanding Public Engagement Project 2021

A large collection of research at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging relies on members of the public visiting the Centre to take part in an MRI brain scan. For some, poor understanding of MRI technology might prompt worry or anxiety, and serve as a barrier to participating in studies.

Outstanding Public Engagement Project winner Understanding MRI aims to alleviate these fears and improve understanding of MRI physics by answering participants’ most popular question: “What is functional MRI?”

The project takes the form of a short animated video which addresses the queries of research participants undergoing an MRI scan. It resulted from a collaboration between scientific researchers, MRI study participants, and a freelance illustrator.

A still from the Understanding MRI animated videoAlmost 200 people participated in an initial survey which investigated queries regarding MRI. These survey respondents came from the PLORAS and QM ap-PD studies, which constitute a large proportion of participants scanned at the Centre. A smaller group of participants then formed a focus group, which provided feedback over three phases of video development on the script, narration, and image style.

Many of the focus group participants had aphasia – a condition affecting the ability to understand or formulate language after damage to specific brain regions. People with aphasia are traditionally underrepresented in research due to challenges surrounding communication, but many of these participants are now interested in contributing to further public engagement initiatives.

Understanding MRI is a complex project which strikes a tricky balance between maintaining a high level of accuracy and ensuring the final product remains both accessible and engaging. The video is currently in its final developmental stage, and has been well received by both study participants and WCHN researchers. Once complete, it will be made available online and in the Centre’s reception area, so that study participants and visitors can watch it while they wait.

The Understanding MRI team is made up of:

  • Nadine Graedel: Research Associate
  • Megan Creasey: Head of Imaging
  • Kate Ledingham: Research Assistant/PhD student
  • Joanne Thomas: Public Engagement Officer
  • Nadege Corbin (no longer at WCHN)
  • Nicky Smith (no longer at WCHN)

Representing the multi-disciplinary team, Nadine Graedel said:

“The Understanding MRI project brought together physics, imaging support, the PLORAS, qMAP-PD and public engagement teams. Having all these different teams come together (virtually) allowed us to profit from our diverse and complimentary skills and expertise. A big thank you to the PE team for supporting us and for this award. We are looking forward to continuing this project!”

Congratulations to everyone who was involved in putting this project together. We look forward to seeing how it develops in the future!

Awarded May 2021