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Keywords:

  • cognitive effects;
  • MRI;
  • exposure;
  • case-crossover;
  • ultra-high field;
  • stray fields

Abstract

The study investigates the impact of exposure to the stray magnetic field of a whole-body 7 T MRI scanner on neurobehavioral performance and cognition. Twenty seven volunteers completed four sessions, which exposed them to ∼1600 mT (twice), 800 mT and negligible static field exposure. The order of exposure was assigned at random and was masked by placing volunteers in a tent to hide their position relative to the magnet bore. Volunteers completed a test battery assessing auditory working memory, eye–hand co-ordination, and visual perception. During three sessions the volunteers were instructed to complete a series of standardized head movements to generate additional time-varying fields (∼300 and ∼150 mT·s−1 r.m.s.). In one session, volunteers were instructed to keep their heads as stable as possible. Performance on a visual tracking task was negatively influenced (P<.01) by 1.3% per 100 mT exposure. Furthermore, there was a trend for performance on two cognitive-motor tests to be decreased (P<.10). No effects were observed on working memory. Taken together with results of earlier studies, these results suggest that there are effects on visual perception and hand–eye co-ordination, but these are weak and variable between studies. The magnitude of these effects may depend on the magnitude of time-varying fields and not so much on the static field. While this study did not include exposure above 1.6 T, it suggests that use of strong magnetic fields is not a significant confounder in fMRI studies of cognitive function. Future work should further assess whether ultra-high field may impair performance of employees working in the vicinity of these magnets. Bioelectromagnetics 28:247–255, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.