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Frequently Asked Questions

Why participate?

By participating, you will make an invaluable contribution to families, scientists, and clinicians interested in cognitive, behavioral, and brain development and in the early diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. You will additionally be compensated for your time and provided with a free parking spot.

Will my schedule be accommodated?

We are very flexible.  Whether you are available during weekdays, weeknights, or weekends, we can typically accommodate our sessions to your schedule.

What will my child's role be in this research study?

Each project involves participants in a different way, so please visit the links to individual studies on the left for specific participation information.

Are all the studies longitudinal (i.e., do I have to go back for follow-up visits)?

Although we do conduct longitudinal research, many of our studies only involve one visit to the lab.  For more specific details on participation, please visit the individual study pages on the left.

Do you only study young children?

We study kids of all ages, typically ranging up to 17 years of age.  To see if your child's age renders him or her eligible for participating, please visit the individual study pages on the left.

What if I don't know whether my child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

We provide a thorough diagnostic screening for every child who participates in our ADHD study.  Dr. Sheridan, who is a clinical psychologist, will happily discuss any results of the diagnostic screening with you.

What is MRI, and are there any risks of participating in an MRI study?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive procedure used to obtain detailed images of organs and tissues in the body.  In the case of our lab, we use MRI to obtain images of the brain.  MRI is used in both clinical and research applications and has been shown to be very safe. Unlike x-rays or CT scans, MRI uses powerful magnetic fields, rather than ionizing radiation, to produce images.  It therefore does not carry any of the risks associated with exposure to ionizing radiation.  Moreover, MRI scans are painless and do not cause any known tissue damage, even with repeated exposure.

Since the MRI scanner is essentially a large magnet, however, it attracts ferromagnetic objects (objects that contain iron), and so anybody with metallic implants (e.g., cardiac pacemakers; metal joint placements; pins, screws, plates, etc.) should not participate in an MRI study.  We thoroughly screen every participant to ensure that they are safe to enter the MRI scanning room, and all people present during our scans have received MRI safety training.

In addition, the MRI machine makes loud tapping noises during scanning.  We provide all participants with earplugs to reduce this noise.  Finally, because lying in the closed space of the MRI scanner can feel uncomfortable or unusual to some people, we introduce our participants to the procedure with a "mock" MRI session in order to ensure that the experience will be familiar and comfortable.

Can I find out the results of the MRI scan?

A radiologist examines every set of MRI images collected in our studies and the results are automatically registered into a medical record.  If the radiologist encounters anything atypical in the MRI results, he will contact Dr. Sheridan, who will discuss the findings with you.

Are the studies difficult for children to participate in?

Not at all!  We have designed all our studies to be engaging and age-appropriate in difficulty, and we take great care to ensure that each child is having fun by letting them play with toys from our toy closet and take snack and rest breaks.  The overwhelming majority of our participants have said that they had a lot of fun and would like to come back for another visit.

What if we decide to discontinue our participation in the study?

Your child's participation in our research is completely voluntary. You have the right to withdraw your child from at any time. Your choice of whether or not to have your child participate will not affect your current or future dealings with Boston Children's Hospital. If, during the course of this research study, there are new findings that might affect your willingness to be involved with the study, the researchers will inform you of those findings.

Why would I be taken off the study early?

Sometimes we will exclude your child from the study based on our behavioral measures or the results of our questionnaires. Your child may also be taken off the study if you/your child are unable to attend the study visits required or the Principal Investigator feels it is in the best interest of you/your child to be taken off this study.

Do people working in the lab have experience working with children?

The Principal Investigator, Margaret Sheridan, is a clinical psychologist with substantial experience in functional and structural MRI with children and adults. To date, she has examined over 150 children between the ages of 4 and 17 using MRI.  Other members on the team have extensive backgrounds in psychology and years of experience in working with children.

What will happen to information obtained during this study?

All information obtained for the purpose of this study will be kept confidential in accordance with the HIPAA policy (see attached handout). Reports published as a result of the study will not include any identifying information about your child and will not be traceable to him or her. 

Is my child eligible to participate in this study?

The participation criteria vary from study to study.  Please visit the links to individual studies on the left for specific eligibility information.  Please note that even if your child doesn't qualify for one of our current studies, he or she may qualify for a future study.  If you are uncertain whether your child meets the criteria, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Where can I learn more about research on brain development in general?

The Sheridan Lab strongly recommends the University of Orgeon Brain Development Lab's Changing Brains program for comprehensive information and educational videos about neural and cognitive development.

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