fMRI info

Who we are

At the Birkbeck UCL Centre for NeuroImaging (BUCNI), from Birkbeck, University of London and University College London, we use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies to look at how the brain develops. This technique has been very important in allowing us to understand how our brain works as we learn about the world we live in.

We are now looking for children of 6-10 years of age who would like to be a participant in one of our studies about how we develop our language and how we learn to deal with the objects in the world around us. During a visit to our centre parents and children get hands-on experience with high-tech scientific research and the children get to discover what their brain looks like. They take part in a series of small computer games and watch videos while we take pictures of their brain with the MRI scanner. We will give your child a video of his or her own brain when the study is finished.

You can visit the BUCNI to participate in one of our studies at a time that suits you best, like after school, in weekends or holidays. We will reimburse your travel costs and provide you with snacks and drinks during your visit. To find out more about this research and find out what studies are currently running at BUCNI please contact us on the phone number or email below or register via the link below and fill in your details. We will get back to you as soon as possible. Contacting us will not oblige you to anything.

  • Brain Development Studies at the BUCNI and CBCD
  • Phone Tessa Dekker (researcher): +44 7515638869
  • E-mail:




What is fMRI?

  • fMRI stands for functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
  • You, your friends or maybe even your child may have had an MRI before –it is used in hospitals to measure all different parts of your body, for example if you have hurt your leg they might scan it to check what has happened on the inside by using magnetic waves.
  • MRI can be used to look at the anatomical structure of the brain and to look at how the brain works while we are doing different tasks, such as reading, listening, seeing or tasting.
  • The MRI scan procedure is safe - these procedures are done hundreds of times a day all over the world. This makes MRI a great method for looking at brain development.
  • The noises the scanner makes when it’s taking pictures of the brain can be quite loud. To block out these sounds, we will provide headphones so that our participants can concentrate on listening or watching the videos in the scanner.
  • In order to get nice pictures of the brain, it is very important to keep thehead very still, just like in normal pictures. We will practice this with your child and keep reminding him or her of this throughout the study.
  • Before the study starts we will explain everything to you and your child and answer any questions that you may have. We will also talk with your child throughout the study so he/she knows exactly what will happen next.
  • Because MRI scans use strong magnetic fields, it is not safe to go near the scanner with magnetic metal. For example, people wearing piercings, clothes with metal that is not very securely attached or who have medical implants cannot go into the scanner room; zips on trousers are attached very well and are therefore not a problem but dangly earrings are. To make sure it is safe for your child to be in an MRI study, we will ask you some safety questions before you come for a visit. If you are not sure whether your child has metal in his or her body please tell this to the researcher.
  • When the study is finished we will have made some very nice videos and pictures of your child’s brain. We will send free copies of these to your home as a nice reminder of your participation in our research.
  • We would like to emphasize that your and your child’s participation in this research is voluntary at all times. Even if you decide to take part, you can withdraw at any time, without the need to give a reason. Before the scanning session we make sure that only those individuals who are fully comfortable with taking part in the research will go ahead with scanning.

Download MRI information pack for Young Scientists


What is EEG?

  • EEG stands for electroencephalography, which literally means ‘electrical brain writing’, the process of making a written chart of the the electrical activity in the brain.
  • Cells in our brains are constantly using electricity to communicate and EEG allows us to measure this activity, which we know as ‘brainwaves’.  Recordings are made as participants of all ages do activities or play games on a computer.
  • Our EEG caps have 128 electrical sensors, which are highly sensitive to changes in brain activity.  The caps are comfortable and pleasant and completely safe, with no associated short or long-term health risks.
  • Similar caps are also used by medical teams who use the same process to look for signs of disorders such as epilepsy.
  • If you visit us and your child decides they would like to take part we will explain in detail all stages of the study and demonstrate how we put on the EEG cap before starting.
  • Your child will be able to see their brainwaves on the computer monitor and we can send you a picture of the pattern of electrical activity over their scalp.
  • We would like to emphasize that your and your child’s participation in this research is voluntary at all times. Even if you decide to take part, you can withdraw at any time, without the need to give a reason.