Subjects' expectations in neuroimaging research

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2006 Feb;23(2):205-9. doi: 10.1002/jmri.20499.


Purpose: To explore subjects' attitudes and expectations concerning the detection and management of incidental findings in neuroimaging research.

Materials and methods: Healthy control subjects (N = 105) who previously participated in neuroimaging studies in medical and nonmedical settings were surveyed about their expectations and attitudes toward unexpected clinical findings on their research brain scans. We hypothesized that even though the participants consented to a scanning procedure for research purposes alone, they would still expect pathology, if present, to be detected and reported to them.

Results: Fifty-four percent of participants reported that they expected research scans to detect abnormalities if they existed. Nearly all subjects (>90%) reported that they would want findings communicated to them, and many (59%) preferred this to be done by a physician affiliated with the research team. The participants responded in similar ways whether they were scanned in medical or nonmedical settings.

Conclusion: Clarity about procedures for handling incidental findings when obtaining written and verbal informed consent is essential to ensure that the subjects' expectations are consistent with the purpose and scope of the research.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomedical Research / ethics*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic Imaging / ethics
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Human Experimentation*
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings*
  • Informed Consent
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Patient Participation
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Research Subjects
  • Risk Factors
  • Truth Disclosure