Inspiration for Your Next MRI

I was just thinking about the fact that another MRI is in my near future, as my annual checkup with my neurologist is drawing near. I don’t mind MRIs at all. Before I ever had one, I feared I’d find it claustrophobic. But my yoga practice has taught me how to calm my mind and my breathing, enabling me practically to fall asleep when I’m in that tube.

Of course, not everyone is as comfortable getting MRIs as I am. Many freak out over being so tightly encased in the tube, and some have trouble staying still during the long and noisy scanning period.

Open MRIs are a good option for many of those people. But perhaps some might find it inspiring to read about this incredible study regarding dogs’ ability to read human emotions.

As NPR reports, researchers at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology in Budapest wanted to figure out why dogs are so closely attuned to the sound and nuances of people’s voices. To that end, the scientists planned to conduct brain MRIs on 11 dogs as they listened to various sounds via headphones. Though some smaller experiments had successfully captured such images of dogs’ brains, this team of researchers worried about whether the greater number of dogs in their experiment would make it harder to get the dogs to cooperate.

The scientists used treats to encourage and reward good behavior. But one of the most powerful techniques for getting the dogs to lie still turned out to be the good example set by another dog.

Among the dogs whose brains were to be scanned were some who were experienced at getting MRIs. So the scientists placed one of those dogs on the MRI bed, with other dogs watching. When the dogs observed the model dog’s calm and happy behavior, they apparently couldn’t wait to get on that MRI bed themselves!

After a lot of pre-scan training and heaps of praise for the pooches, the researchers were able to capture images of all the dogs’ brains. That information they gathered allowed them to pinpoint areas in a dog’s brain dedicated to processing the voices of humans and other dogs.

When it comes time for my MRI, I plan to lie in the tube thinking about those dogs and the stellar example they set for us all. If they can lie perfectly still despite all that commotion, then, doggonit, so can I!

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Jennifer LaRue Huget, Blogger

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is

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  • Laurie garvin   Mar 21, 2014 9:54 AM
    I do not mind MRIs. I have not had one since I was diagnosed this reminds me to ask my neurologist next appointment
  • Celeste   Mar 21, 2014 9:56 AM
    Sleep, what better time to nap. I have learned most the time how to stop & be still so that I do not collapse or become overly anxious.
  • Janet White   Mar 21, 2014 10:00 AM
    I really don't like MRIs but I find I do better if I concentrate on something. As a long time Christian and a serious music lover, I try to remember the middle verses of old hymns. The first and last verses are usually sung in church but the middle verses take a lot more concentration. Did you know that there are about 10 verses to "Amazing Grace"?
  • Jeannie   Mar 21, 2014 10:07 AM
    I was good with them the first four now have to take relaxer. Have one in two weeks. Yippee
  • Jeannie   Mar 21, 2014 10:07 AM
    I was good with them the first four now have to take relaxer. Have one in two weeks. Yippee
  • Kelly Heise   Mar 21, 2014 10:16 AM
    I was DX in 1999 at the age of 39. First time marriage for both.
    After our 3 week HM, surprise----- I'm pregnant.
    Deliver with no issues. 2 nd pregnancy 3 years later .
    Healthy boy, not so healthy mother.

    All these years I've gone in to have MRIs every
    6 months. I dislike them immensely.
    I'm seventy claustrophobic due to a swimming
    Accident as a child.

    Thankfully, my MD understands and always gives me
    Versed before the scan . U aren't "out"
    But just don't care. When it's over, u don't remember
    Being there. Great stuff.
    Anyone else dread this awful moment?
    Ask for Versed, your troubles are over.

    We have MS but it doesn't have us.
    Be someone's beacon in the dark!
  • Kayla   Mar 21, 2014 10:47 AM
    I actually LOVE MRIs. I find it relaxing in the same way a massage would be! It took me several MRIs to get to this point, though.

    My first MRI was terrifying, and I played lots of brain games in my head to keep from going crazy. Like the memory game, "I'm going to the Dr and in my bag I'm bringing an abacus....I'm going to the Dr and in my bag I'm bringing an abacus and a boilerplate...etc. As a musician, I also spent a lot of time trying to improvise melodies in my head over the very unique "percussion" of the MRI. And breathing exercises and meditation techniques.

    I'm not sure exactly how I transitioned to total zen, but I don't even need any tricks now to get there. And I'm always a little sad when the MRI is over - it goes so fast!

    I hope the tricks I used at first might be helpful to anyone struggling with the MRI and that my current place of MRI-happiness gives you hope that you can get used to the strange experience.
  • Lexi   Mar 21, 2014 10:54 AM
    I've had MS for 24 years and learned about MRI's fast. I always see how many people take yoga. Does this really help or would walking and exercise work also?
  • diane   Mar 21, 2014 10:55 AM
    I have yoga to be helpful with the Mri also. But actually it helps anytime ms becomes too much.
  • marsha   Mar 21, 2014 11:04 AM
    WOW, what's with all the MRI's? Once you have had one and been diagnosed, what shows up there doesn't relate to how one is or isn't. It causes so much anxiety, I'd skip it. After 46 years since my first symptom, I was diagnosed at 40, when MRI's were first used to see scarring. At 60 I had another. That's it for me.
  • Leann   Mar 21, 2014 11:05 AM
    Fist I tell the tech I will be as long as they keep on talking to me between scans. Ya know to let me know how long the next one will be etc. And I pray while I am in there and I just try to think of it as a time away from all of my troubles.
  • Sarah   Mar 21, 2014 11:09 AM
    I like to pretend I am playing a vintage video game. So many of the noises are reminiscent of that. :)
  • Melissa "Missy"   Mar 21, 2014 11:31 AM
    Im scared to death of them. I have had 3 in the last year, the last one I ended up having to have valium for it. I was crying in the tube but I needed a 3t mri. Staff at UPMC Pittsburg where great. Requesting premeds from now on.
  • Joy   Mar 21, 2014 11:36 AM
    Stay up really late the night before-you'll definitely be still because you'll be so sleepy!
  • Melissa   Mar 21, 2014 11:55 AM
    I have to take medication to have an MRI done. Every time my neurologist says it's time for one, I have a panic attack just thinking about it! They always give me Klonipen to take beforehand so I end up sleeping through the whole thing.
  • Aly   Mar 21, 2014 11:56 AM
    My trick is to close my eyes as soon as the table starts moving and not open them again until I know I'm out of the tube. I'm also a musician and enjoy listening to all the sounds of the machine. The hardest part for me is keeping my arms relaxed. I always end up making them tense and then have to try to relax them without moving.
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    Ldg1230  Mar 21, 2014 12:00 PM
    Hi, I, too, use my yoga techniques to calm myself down before a MRI, and I fall asleep. I often think of myself as being on a safari in Africa and I am hearing drums that the natives use to communicate with each other. Before I know it, I am asleep. And, I don't seem to have any problems with movement during the MRI.
    Take care of yourself,
  • Clive   Mar 21, 2014 12:08 PM
    It is not a great experience being in an MRI machine with the noise and the fact that it can be very claustrophobic. However if you try to keep calm and picture nice places like a beach or some place you like to visit it can be of help.
    Of course the quicker it is over the better.
  • fightback   Mar 21, 2014 12:26 PM
    I agree with Marsha, what's with all the MRIs? They certainly are a helpful diagnostic tool initially but after that, not so much.
  • Connie Summer   Mar 21, 2014 12:31 PM
    MRI's have really never bothered me. The Tech putts a cloth over my face and plugs in ears. I just try to snooze.
  • nery   Mar 21, 2014 12:36 PM
    Que bueni conocer esta pagina y a su ves ver los pacientes comentar de sus experiencias para que asi otros cinozcamos que hacer en distintas situaciones. Realmente Me da gusto :-) ,un abrazo
  • jenifer   Mar 21, 2014 12:41 PM
    I hate them, I am pretty claustrophobic. So I wear there headphones listen to my music counting songs tells me how much longer I might have. Oh & the fan helps!
  • Cheryl   Mar 21, 2014 12:54 PM
    I have pretended I'm in a space ship ! Just resting waiting to land. Relaxation is the best but sometimes the legs want to do there own thing. Taking Baclofen before MRI helps.
  • Kate   Mar 21, 2014 12:55 PM
    Many of us are on Tysabri. We have an MRI every six months. I've been on this for more than 6 years and have had up eventful experiences and some more panicky ones. Pre meds for sure.
  • Avatar
    yogadeb  Mar 21, 2014 12:55 PM
    I, too, use yoga and meditation techniques for MRIs. I get into the rhythm of the machine almost lie its a mantra. I have to ask them to pack my head tight because following the rhythm can put me to sleep and the change in rhythm can startle me awake. I only have trouble if restless leg starts while I'm in there, so i take a low dose of Mirapex beforehand.

    I get MRI's particularly when I have vision problems and that requires even holding your eyeballs still. Yoga breathing and doing a body scan meditation really help.
  • Anybeth   Mar 21, 2014 1:31 PM
    What's with all the MRIs? I can think of three reasons: some neuros want confirmation before giving steroids for an exacerbation, some neuros want occasional MRIs just to keep an eye on how it's going, and some medicines require them (Tysabri means one a year).

    I take a mild sedative before an MRI for the same reason that I wear a hat whenever I go out: I can't ignore sensory stimuli and become very overwhelmed if I don't take measures to counteract that deficiency.

    I go in with only comfy clothes, the softest foam earplugs, and a sleep mask. I'm not claustrophobic, but the sleep mask means I won't be looking around, so there'll be less eye-movement to affect image quality.

    I do like a lot of others here have said, singing songs in my head, making things up to the machine's beat, etc.

    Sometimes having to stay so still for so long starts to drive me batty. I once asked the tech if it'd be ok... so now whenever I start feeling that way, I wiggle my toes. Since my feet are sticking outside the tube anyway, it doesn't hurt anything. It can be a big relief for me.
  • Brenda Steinbach   Mar 21, 2014 1:40 PM
    I was diagnosed on December 5, 1985. That was before there were any injectible drugs. I thought I would be crippled and in a wheel chair. Many years later, 29 actually, I raised two healthy sons who are teachers and I myself have become an ACE personal trainer and senior fitness specialist. I had always exercised and did so through both pregnancies.
    My role in my life now is to encourage people to exercise and do whatever they find possible to stay as active as they can. I do not like MRI's either. My word of advice is to stay positive and dream to beat this thing!
  • Lori   Mar 21, 2014 1:45 PM
    what do you do when you get a coughing fit during and MRI? I try like crazy to hold it back but that can be difficult. I can pretty much relax thru the whole thing except for that darn coughing fit!!
  • Elizabeth   Mar 21, 2014 2:19 PM
    I went through several fine but the last time I freaked out when they put me in the tube. I made a second attempt with stronger medication but couldn't go through with it. It isn't the tube itself but the mask you have to wear. It causes the breathe to come back on your face so I know it is too close. I had really thought I was doing better after being claustrophobic but for some reason it has reared its ugly head.
  • Pam   Mar 21, 2014 2:21 PM
    How funny; I had all 3 today with and without contrast. Certainly not my first time but a new place. I typically keep my eyes closed and think about being on the beach and listen to the waves :). And yoga breathe. Today I made words around the noises - whatever it sounds like the MRI is saying. The machine guns, screaming daughter repetitively. And yoga breathe. 5 in 5 out. Maybe next time I'll think of the dogs :)
  • Joanne   Mar 21, 2014 3:32 PM
    My neuro appointment was last week off for my annual tests including an MRI which I hate. I cope most times but have had panic attacks going in the tunnel not much fun :( but I always make it in the end
  • nell   Mar 21, 2014 3:42 PM
    I think you are all very brave. I have to have a general anaesthetic to have mri. I had a major panic attack with my first mri, was drugged for 2nd and vomitted, couldn t leave the changing room for my 3rd, so general anaesthetic is the only way for me!
  • Jill   Mar 21, 2014 6:08 PM
    I'm one also that has to have general sedation. I cannot seem to overcome the panic that starts the minute I arrive at the hospital. Valium doesn't do anything for me and I have tried all the other ways to fight my fear and claustrophobia. I am due in May for my next scans and am already dreading them. I admire those that make it through!
  • Gail   Mar 21, 2014 6:36 PM
    Im recently diagnosed. Im not in denial of what i have, but my experiences with my own doctor and hospital after i took a very severe episode which i got the diagnosis of rrms 10 years after the first little lapse,has left me actually wondering what is wrong? My usual GP, hasnt a clue she leaves it to my hospital who i have waited since last May to sort....almost a year on and off course im still of work tho trying to get back as im now on half wages....UK sucks at patient doctor thing...NHS is good, but when undont get answers right away? ...its not right
  • Janet   Mar 21, 2014 7:02 PM
    I have been an MRI technologist for almost 25 years. The best thing to do to get through(in most cases ) is to use a facecloth over your eyes. This helps so many people, some are reluctant to cover their eyes but after they do they are so happy. Try to think of upcoming events like vacations. think of family members or things that make you happy. I always check to see how they are doing and let them know how long it will be. Good luck to all of you, you can get through an MRI, just think positively!!
  • betty   Mar 21, 2014 7:59 PM
    I either nap or compose music in my head in rhythm to the percussion like bongs
  • Jenni   Mar 21, 2014 8:28 PM
    Being a heavy person does not help! I have to work up the nerve to get in the machine, then I count. If I start thinking of songs, my feet take over! It definitely puts me in the mindset to try to walk more. My daughter is having her first MRI Monday to rule out other possibilities aside from her migraines and She keeps asking little questions. Trying so hard to not let her see my anxiety! Fingers crossed that she handles them better than I do! Wish I could read in there!
  • Anna   Mar 21, 2014 9:37 PM
    After countless MRI's, I've found that it helps to keep your eyes closed. I also request that they play classical music on the headphones which relaxes me.
  • Laura   Mar 21, 2014 9:58 PM
    I close my eyes before going in and leave them closed until I get out. I also picture myself in a hammock on a beautiful beach, reading a great book and having a frozen margarita.
  • Russ   Mar 21, 2014 10:21 PM
    I know it's better than a rectal exam!
  • Marva   Mar 21, 2014 11:01 PM
    I had my MRI on March, 21, 2014, I have Multiple Sclerosis, I was nervous, but my loving sister was their for me, The sounds from the Machine is hard for me to deal with, God is good all the TIME
  • Joseph Mitchell   Mar 22, 2014 12:29 AM
    I go to sleep to the rhythm of the machine. There are musical chords close to what john Coltrane did. I had a brain and spinal today. Best nap I've had in three or four months. If the phone rings or if there is a knock at the door, it's NOT for me and if it is, "Tell 'em I'm busy. Climb in or have a seat and read a magazine."
  • Debbie   Mar 22, 2014 6:02 AM
    I was finally diagnosed last year at age 46 after four years of trying. I had 3 back MRI's w/wo contrast in May, head scans in Aug. and Dec. Really don't like them but like others here, I keep my eyes closed and sing in my head or relive a vacation. I figure this is just part of this new life I have and jusy have to live with it.
  • Kathi   Mar 22, 2014 7:47 AM
    my daughter has a horrible time with MRI's. it causes her a lot of pain trying to lay still for so long in one position. joints hurt... back hurts... and she says she can tell what part of her is being studied by a "pulling" feeling. She takes a pain pill before and it helps a little.
  • razel20  Mar 22, 2014 7:53 AM
    I'm not really afraid of small places, but being slid into a tube is a little nerve racking. I have them put a towel over my eyes, that way I can't accidentally open them and really se where I am. Then I start counting backwards from 1000 or 2000, depending on whether it's just the brain, just the spinal cord, or both, you might be surprised how much focus is required to count backwards from that high of a number. I also listen to the rhythm of the machine. People who have had them for other things, tell me I'm crazy, there's no rhythm, but there is. You can hear it after you've had about 7 of them. I also mix in some Hail Mary's, just for luck.
  • Marilyn   Mar 22, 2014 10:26 AM
    Dx Dec. 2000 & doing well. MRI usually every two years mainly because I am not on any of the disease modifying medication! I do not have any issue with having an MRI other than the noise & brightness! I close my eyes & think pleasant thoughts! I am a chronic migraine sufferer!
  • Jacqueline White   Mar 22, 2014 10:42 AM
    I have to take lorazapam before I can have the MRI! I was diagnosed three years ago ! Have probably had MS more like 5 years !
  • SteveSano   Mar 22, 2014 12:43 PM
    Claustrophobia is tough to keep in check. I nearly kicked my way out of the MRI tube 10 years ago. Then, I prayed for help and all of my muscles calmed down as did my mind. My breathing returned to normal. Today, drugs help me to the point of nearly sleeping while in the tube. I still say a prayer each visit to the MRInfor the time I needed and received help.
  • Tom B.   Mar 22, 2014 3:28 PM
    Being in an MRI tube is a good place to meditate. It helps it go by faster.
  • Pam   Mar 22, 2014 3:45 PM
    I have had at least one to two MRIs every year for the past 23 years. They don't bother me. But after 23 years of having them for MS my last one shows that I don't have MS because the spots are not where they should do. So now I'm just waiting to find out what I do have. Has this ever happened to anyone let me know if it has please.
  • Laurie D.   Mar 22, 2014 10:08 PM
    I was diagnosed with RRMS on 10-28-03 at age 43. But I've had MS symptoms since 1978. I've had my share of MRI's over the years. Thoughts of having to spend 45 minutes to an hour in that tube really did intimidate me, especially because I am a large person. However, I spoke to my neurologist about my concerns, such as that claustrophobic feeling, the loud noises, having to hold still, etc. What I found that helped me is this: Have the tech put a dry washcloth over your eyes the minute you lay down (before you go in the tube), this really helps with the claustrophobia. I take Ativan/Lorazepam about 30 mins before the procedure. It helps with anxiety and also relaxes you. I also ask the tech to put cushions under my knees so my back doesn't hurt and my legs don't get twitchy. With good foam ear plugs in place, I am ready to go! When the banging sounds begin, I try to make it like a musical tune in my head. When the next sound begins, I adjust to it. Most times, I just fall asleep now and it's quite relaxing. It makes me sad to hear how many people are so anxious or afraid to have this test done. My advice: TALK WITH YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT WHAT MAKES YOU ANXIOUS REGARDING HAVING AN MRI. Your Dr. will always have suggestions and answers to help it be a better experience for you.

    Good luck everyone!
  • Cynthia G   Mar 23, 2014 6:46 AM
    I use centering prayer. I have two health conditions, one being MS and I sometimes have two MRI's a month. During my MRI's I become so calm and centered that I have been asked if I was alright. I don't like being in that "can" for hours at a time, but centering prayer has helped me overcome my discomfort.
  • Eva Marsh   Mar 23, 2014 9:46 AM
    I was diagnosed in 1967 and told I didn't have long, but have recovered from all disabling symptoms since. MRI in 1995 has too many spots to count and has been interpreted to mean that I require 24 hour care. Research indicates MRIs can be up to 76% inaccurate. Prior to MRI, autopsies showed NO CORRELATON between damage and condition of the patient. Can't trust technology all the time. I will be 70 in June and I am fully mobile.
  • Phyllis L   Mar 23, 2014 1:19 PM
    The mri doesn't really bother me. The tube is fairly open and depending on the tech, I have ear plugs or headphones and a choice of music type, like jazz, classical, etc. I try to match the pounding to a song. The vamp to Revolution has a similar beat. Did you know the contrast dye used to be shellfish based? I'm very allergic to shellfish and was glad to know that's not used where I get my MRI's.
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    Quaker  Mar 26, 2014 2:56 PM
    Hello to thee! --- I know this may seem strange. But after I have a MRI I feel alot better for a day or so. Almost happy. I was wondering if it could be the high magnetic field that they put you in. I know the Chinese, use magnets for all kinds of medical issues.
  • Sharon   Mar 26, 2014 7:23 PM
    I had to take a Xanax and they used the shorter "tube" so could actually see light at the end. Also, they started using padded ear muff type ear pieces for the music and comfy eye masks. Now that I have a ton of metal in my back, I won't be "enjoying" another MRI.
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    jrshackelton  Mar 27, 2014 5:41 PM
    I too use my Yoga practice breathing and I ask the tech not to interrupt my sleep to tell me what noise is next....kind of got it down now. I love that now we can listen to music and the headphones block out some of the noise. That and Valium and this girl is good to go.