Me, Myself and MRI

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At the start of the project we went through a rigorous ethical approval process with the Research and Ethics Committee at York Neuroimaging Centre. The reasons behind this were:

  • to enable us to use the MRI scanner at YNiC and invite our participants to undergo a brain scan; and
  • to make sure we had permission to use the brain scan data in the exhibition pieces. 
The Research and Ethics Committee play a very important role. Personal medical data has to be handled in a very sensitive way and the Committee make sure that anyone using the MRI scanner at YNiC understands this and that they're not going to use the scan data in an unethical or inappropriate way.
Personal medical data has to be handled in a very sensitive way

Our project was quite unusual in that most of the projects that the Committee reviews are going to use the MRI data as part of a clinical research project. There wasn't any clinical research attached to our project, we simply wanted to use the brain scan data to create images and videos for the exhibition pieces and to show our group of young people how the raw data can be turned into 2D or 3D images.

It was also unusual in that in most research projects the MRI data is anonymous, i.e. the researchers don't reveal the names of the people whose scan data they're using. We wanted to very clearly link the scan images to specific people, as part of their portraits, and had to get permission to do this from the Research and Ethics Committee.

We were given permission to use the MRI scan images in the artworks on the following conditions:
  • that all participants were fully informed of the scan procedures and the potential, though rare, hazards and side effects involved in undergoing an MRI scan;
  • that participants were allowed to withdraw from the project at any time and wouldn't have to provide a reason for their withdrawal;
  • that all scan data was reviewed by a radiologist to check for the presence of any anomalies on the participants' brains. We weren't allowed to get copies of the scan data until this review had taken place.
We prepared information sheets for all of the project participants, explaining what they could expect when they came for their MRI scan as well as giving them further information on the project. You can download these sheets from the page on Participant Consent.

Next section: Participant Consent