Behavioral interventions for reducing head motion during MRI scans in children

Deanna J. Greene, Jonathan M. Koller, Jacqueline M. Hampton, Victoria Wesevich, Andrew N. Van, Annie L. Nguyen, Catherine R. Hoyt, Lindsey McIntyre, Eric A. Earl, Rachel L. Klein, Joshua S. Shimony, Steven E. Petersen, Bradley L. Schlaggar, Damien A. Fair, Nico U.F. Dosenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


A major limitation to structural and functional MRI (fMRI) scans is their susceptibility to head motion artifacts. Even submillimeter movements can systematically distort functional connectivity, morphometric, and diffusion imaging results. In patient care, sedation is often used to minimize head motion, but it incurs increased costs and risks. In research settings, sedation is typically not an ethical option. Therefore, safe methods that reduce head motion are critical for improving MRI quality, especially in high movement individuals such as children and neuropsychiatric patients. We investigated the effects of (1) viewing movies and (2) receiving real-time visual feedback about head movement in 24 children (5–15 years old). Children completed fMRI scans during which they viewed a fixation cross (i.e., rest) or a cartoon movie clip, and during some of the scans they also received real-time visual feedback about head motion. Head motion was significantly reduced during movie watching compared to rest and when receiving feedback compared to receiving no feedback. However, these results depended on age, such that the effects were largely driven by the younger children. Children older than 10 years showed no significant benefit. We also found that viewing movies significantly altered the functional connectivity of fMRI data, suggesting that fMRI scans during movies cannot be equated to standard resting-state fMRI scans. The implications of these results are twofold: (1) given the reduction in head motion with behavioral interventions, these methods should be tried first for all clinical and structural MRIs in lieu of sedation; and (2) for fMRI research scans, these methods can reduce head motion in certain groups, but investigators must keep in mind the effects on functional MRI data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-245
Number of pages12
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Development
  • Feedback
  • MRI
  • Motion
  • Movies
  • Resting state


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