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Frequently Asked Questions About Volunteering in a Research Study

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 magnetic resonsnace imaging (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.