Purpose: To establish the extent to which representative cognitive functions in subjects undergoing magnetic resonance (MR) imaging are acutely impaired by static magnetic fields of varying field strengths.
Materials and methods: This study was approved by the local ethics committee, and informed consent was obtained from all subjects. In this single-blind case-crossover study, 41 healthy subjects underwent an extensive neuropsychologic examination while in MR units of differing field strengths (1.5, 3.0, and 7.0 T), including a mock imager with no magnetic field as a control condition. Subjects were blinded to field strength. Tests were performed while subjects were lying still in the MR unit and while the examination table was moved. The tests covered a representative set of cognitive functions, such as memory, eye-hand coordination, attention, reaction time, and visual discrimination. Subjective sensory perceptions were also assessed. Effects were analyzed with a repeated-measures analysis of variance; the within-subject factors were field strength (0, 1.5, 3.0, and 7.0 T) and state (static, dynamic).
Results: Static magnetic fields were not found to have a significant effect on cognitive function at any field strength. However, sensory perceptions did vary according to field strength. Dizziness, nystagmus, phosphenes, and head ringing were related to the strength of the static magnetic field.
Conclusion: Static magnetic fields as high as 7.0 T did not have a significant effect on cognition.