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Volunteer in a Human Neuroscience Research Study - General Recruitment

Human neuroscience research studies at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute

Explore Your Mind With Science

Virginia Tech scientists at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute are recruiting healthy adults, ages 18 - 64, to participate in ongoing brain research studies. Study sessions may take place at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke, or the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg.

Research volunteers will complete tasks - such as playing a game, looking at pictures, reading a short story, drinking or eating, or interacting with another person - while neuroscientists scan their brains using safe, non-invasive imaging techniques. Each research visit is roughly 1 - 3 hours. 

Research volunteers will receive a minimum of $20 and will also receive a copy of their brain images.

The researchers will use a combination of safe and non-invasive imaging techniques called functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and optically pumped magnetometry to look at your brain. X-rays and CT scans are not used.

What is fMRI? 

MRI machines use powerful magnets to rotate protons in your body's water molecules, allowing scientists to visualize structures in your brain and measure blood flow. Volunteers lie inside the MRI while their brains are scanned. Read more about fMRI

What is magnetometry?

Optically pumped magnetometry devices are wearable, lightweight headsets that measure brain activity while research volunteers can move around, interact, and sit upright. The device, which looks like a hat with wires connected to it, uses quantum sensor chips to measure the strength and originating location of magnetic fields produced by the human brain. Read more about Optically Pumped Magnetometry

How do the sensors work?

The sensors are incredibly sensitive, picking up subtle magnetic fields on the quantum scale of femtoteslas, about a billion times smaller than the Earth’s magnetic field. The technology works by passing a laser beam through a glass cell filled with vapor. Magnetic fields generated by the brain shift the vapor’s atomic energy levels in the cell, either enhancing or fading the light current. The cell’s sensor detects changes in the laser beam and produces an electric current proportional to the amount of light passing through it, converting a magnetic signal into an electric one. Read this Story about Virginia Tech's Optically Pumped Magnetometry Lab

This is one of the three MRI machines at the institute.
Optically pumped magnetometry at Virginia Tech
A research participant moves around while researchers measure her brain activity using optically pumped magnetometry sensors that are in her headset.
MRI research study at Virginia Tech
A teenage research participant is getting his brain scanned in the MRI as part of a study.
Optically pumped magnetometry at Virginia Tech
A research participant plays a game while wearing an optically pumped magnetometry headset.
A Virginia Tech researcher shows what the MRI brain scans look like while a participant is scanned.
A researcher shows what the MRI brain scans look like while a participant is scanned.
Optically pumped magnetometry lab, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute
Optically pumped magnetometry allows neuroscientists to observe brain activity during upright, face-to-face social interactions for the first time.

Interested in learning more? 

Please contact us with any questions you have, and submit a volunteer form. A research team member will follow-up with you after your form is submitted.

Learn more about the Center for Human Neuroscience Laboratories and Units