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Volunteer in a Research Study

The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC offers a range of opportunities for participating in research studies aimed at improving our understanding of the human brain. These studies, all of which are compensated, take place in the Institute's state-of-the-art facility at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke, Virginia. For some studies, participation is also possible in the Institute's Blacksburg facility (Building 26 of the Corporate Research Center, at 2270 Kraft Drive).

Many of these studies involve functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, a noninvasive technique that does not cause discomfort. Unlike x-rays and CT scans, fMRI does not involve exposure to any radioactive material. 

A sampling of studies appears below. To schedule an appointment or to learn more, please use the contact information provided below for the specific study or studies in which you are interested in participating.

What is a research study? A research study is an organized way of learning more about a problem or answering a question. Our research studies use interviews, computer tasks, and functional MRI to understand how the brain makes decisions. Getting an MRI is standard, completely non-invasive, and not painful.

Are there benefits to participating in research? There may or may not be a direct benefit to you if you take part in our studies. The study may not help you personally, but your participation will provide information that is expected to improve the lives of others in the future and further our understanding of how the brain works. Research volunteers often tell us that they learn a lot about themselves and the research process by participating in our studies.

What does participation involve? In our studies, we will first ask you some questions to determine whether you are appropriate for each part of the study. If you are eligible, you will complete a series of questionnaires and interviews about your current and past mental and physical health. During the fMRI visit, you will play simple computer games as your brain activity is recorded. Depending on the specific study, your participation may take one or more visits to the lab. Before you enroll, the study coordinator will let you know how long your participation is expected to last.

Why do people choose to participate? People choose to participate for many reasons. For example, some hope to learn about the research process, some want to help researchers understand how the brain functions, and some want to be part of advancing knowledge and treatments of conditions that have affected themselves or their loved ones. Thanks to help from volunteers, we are able to achieve these goals.

What is informed consent? Informed consent is the process of learning the key facts about a research study before you choose whether or not to volunteer. During the consent process, our staff will explain the procedures of the study, how participation might affect you, and your rights as a research volunteer. Our research staff will answer any questions you may have and also ask you to read an "informed consent form" that goes over these details. If you choose to participate, we will ask you to sign the informed consent form.

Will I be compensated? Participants are always compensated for their time in our studies, and the rates vary depending on the study. Also, you will receive a copy of your brain on CD the first time you come in for a scan.

Who can participate? Most of our studies have requirements that must be met in order for you to participate. These requirements are designed to keep you safe and ensure that we can use the data. Some studies have broad requirements such as being over a specific age. Other studies have a more focused requirement, such as having certain life experiences. In general, to participate in fMRI studies, you must NOT have any metal implants (e.g., pacemakers, surgical clips), be claustrophobic, or have a serious medical condition (e.g., cancer, seizure disorder).

Who will see the results of the study? We take your privacy very seriously, and we will never identify you individually in discussing the results from the study. Any results that are presented to the community will be completely de-identified and are usually presented as group averages. We are happy to share these results with you. Only if you give us permission, examples from your experiences may be used to teach future clinicians and researchers.

What if I do not want to participate? Participation is always voluntary. You can change your mind at any time and leave any of our studies without adverse consequences.

The purpose of this study is to help us learn more about the features of electronic cigarettes that influence economic purchasing decisions. We are currently recruiting participants, between the ages of 18 and 65 years of age, who use both electronic and conventional cigarettes.

Participation includes:

  • 6 to 10 sessions lasting approximately 1.5 hours, depending on extent of participation
  • Screening questions
  • Blood draws to measure plasma nicotine content
  • Smoking tasks
  • Participants will receive from $200 to $335 in compensation, depending on the extent of participation

This is not a treatment study. Pregnant females are excluded.
All information is confidential

Call 540-818-0664 or screen online at, if interested.

Do you drink alcohol? Think about joining our alcohol research study!

We are looking for people who are interested in cutting down or even quitting drinking in the future. Participants 18-65 years old needed for a 4 session experimental treatment study on drinking habits. Visits last between 1-2 hours each.

Participation involves:

  • Screening questions
  • Questionnaires
  • Tasks where you may make choices
  • Self-reports of alcohol use
  • Take-home breathalyzer samples

Note: Pregnant females are excluded

Compensation up to $258 based on extent of participation.

For more information call, text, 540-818-0664 or 540-315-0205 or email

Adults 18-65 needed for a one-session confidential research study to examine decision-making and craving in individuals who use cocaine.

Participants involves:

  • A single session lasting up to 3 hours
  • Decision making computerized tasks
  • Questionnaires about cravings and preferences
  • Future-thinking task

Compensation ranges from $10-$50 based on extent of participation. Travel compensation to Roanoke may be provided. Appointments available Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and weekends as needed.

This is not a treatment study.

For more information call, text, 540-315-0205 or email

The Human Neuroimaging Laboratory accepts volunteers interested in being added to the general recruitment pool for a range of studies related to human cognition and decision-making.

Eligibility: Healthy adults aged 18 to 64

Primary goal: To advance human brain research through behavioral and fMRI studies

Institute sponsor: Human Neuroimaging Laboratory

Compensation: varies by study

Visit Subject Sign Up, email us at, or call 540-526-2034

The Roanoke Brain Study is a partnership between the greater Roanoke Valley community and leading scientists to explore the cognitive, behavioral, and genetic factors that affect human decision-making. The study combines novel approaches in functional brain imaging, computational psychiatry, and genetics to study features of decision behavior and how those behaviors change in people over the course of their lives. The aim is to create a global information resource for scientists, physicians, patients, and policy makers seeking insight into processes of decision-making to facilitate healthier lives. The primary task will be an fMRI scan, a non-invasive imaging tool that allows us to capture images of the brain and its activity while volunteers view images, play games, or interact with other people. Volunteers may also be asked to provide a small DNA sample, fill out questionnaires, play simple games on the computer, or interact with other people inside or outside the MRI scanner.

Eligibility: Healthy adults aged 18 to 85

Compensation: Approximately $100

Primary goal: To understand how genes and environment contribute to brain strategies for decision-making in all aspects of life.

Institute sponsor: Human Neuroimaging Laboratory

Study timeframe: Ongoing

To volunteer: Visit Roanoke Brain Study for more information.

Volunteers may sign up for the Roanoke site or the Blacksburg site

The Human Neuroimaging Laboratory is recruiting volunteers for a study involving cigarette smokers. If eligible, there may be a total of four visits involving fMRI, questionnaires, and saliva samples.

Eligibility: Adults aged 18 to 65 who smoke at least 10 cigarettes per day

Primary goal: To investigate how the brain processes decisions and rewards and how those processes are different in smokers and non-smokers

Institute sponsor: Human Neuroimaging Laboratory

Compensation: $20-$600, dependent upon study participation

To volunteer: Visit Subject Sign Up, email us at, or call 540-526-2034

Are you pregnant or the biological mother of a newborn? The Howell Lab is looking for healthy infants ranging from 2-7 months of age to participate in our study examining infant brain development.

Eligible infants and their mothers will be asked to come in for at least two visits during three separate time periods over the course of two years. Infants may be eligible if they were born between 37-42 weeks of pregnancy with no major complications and have no significant health conditions.

Participation may involve :

  • MRI Scanning (a safe, a non-invasive imaging tool)
  • Behavioral Assessments (resembles games and playing)
  • Collection of Fecal Samples
  • Collection of Breast Milk (if mother is currently breastfeeding)
  • Questionnaires (can be completed at home)

Visits should take 1.5-2 hours each. At each time point, participants may be compensated between $90-160 ($270-480 over the two year study period), depending upon the level of involvement.

For more information or questions, visit, call us at 540-526-2195, or e-mail us at

Volunteers over 18 years old needed for a 10-session confidential research study involving surveys about smoking habits and computerized purchasing tasks.

Pregnant women are excluded. You will also be given cigarettes to smoke throughout the study.

Participation involves:

  • Confidential breath and urine tests for tobacco and pregnancy
  • Surveys about smoking habits and preferences
  • Computerized purchasing tasks
  • Use of commercially available cigarettes: ventilated or unventilated

This is not a treatment study.

Compensation of $40-$500 provided based on the extent of participation.

This is not a treatment study. Call/text 1-855-LAB-ARRC or email

We are looking to understand how people with and without a range of interpersonal difficulties process different kinds of information. By looking at a person’s brain while they play games, we can begin to understand how they make decisions. The decisions that a person makes while playing games can tell us about how a person might make interpersonal decisions in real life and what brain functions are used in the process.

You may be eligible if you:

  • Are 18-55 years old
  • Speak English
  • Are NOT claustrophobic
  • Do NOT have any metal implants (e.g. pacemakers, screws)
  • Have NOT had a head injury

Participation includes:

  • Decision making games and questionnaires
  • MRI brain scan
  • Interviews about personality, behaviors, and life experiences
  • Participants will receive $15/hour and have the opportunity to earn up to an additional $75 based on performance in the games

Please contact the study staff at 540-526-2032 or if you are interested in participating.

By tapping the insights and experiences of people who are in recovery from an addiction—whether to tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or a harmful behavior—the International Quit & Recovery Registry seeks to further scientific understanding of recovery and to inspire those struggling with addiction. Participation in the registry involves an online registration process, which includes a brief questionnaire about the individual's recovery process. Participants are also encouraged to share their success stories.

Visit International Quit & Recovery Registry

This is a research study aiming to assess the effects of transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) on decision-making and craving in obese individuals. What is TMS? TMS is a non-invasive procedure involving magnetic pulses to stimulate regions of your brain. TMS is safe and FDA approved. No medication or anesthesia required. TMS is a minimal risk procedure.

If you qualify, participation involves:

  • Transcranial magnetic brain stimulation
  • Computerized assessments
  • MRI scans
  • Eye-blink measurements
  • Food consumption
  • Participation involves 6 sessions
  • Each Session last 1-3 hours
  • Compensation ranges from $30 to $320 based on extent of participation
  • This is not a treatment study
  • All information is confidential
  • Travel Compensation to Roanoke may be provided
  • Must be 18-55 years of age
  • Must be eligible for fMRI scanning and brain stimulation
  • Pregnant females will be excluded

If you are interested in participating, please contact a representative at (540) 315-0205 or at You may also complete an online screening at