Brianna Kinnie Receives 2021 BIRC Excellence Award

The BIRC is pleased to announce the second annual BIRC Excellence Award, which highlights the achievements of a student, staff, faculty member, lab, or group who has made exceptional contributions towards advancing the goals of the BIRC as outlined in the Mission Statement:

  • To facilitate scientific discovery and theoretical and methodological innovation
  • To serve as an intellectual center for interdisciplinary basic and clinical research
  • To prepare graduate students and post-doctoral fellows for careers in academia and related fields
  • To provide undergraduate students with research experience and other educational opportunities
  • To disseminate scientific knowledge to the broader university community, relevant professional communities, and the general public
  • The BIRC Excellence Award is awarded on an annual basis at the end of each Fall semester. Awardees are selected by BIRC staff and confirmed by the BIRC steering committee.

Congratulations to our 2021 BIRC Excellence Award Recipient, Brianna Kinnie, B.S.! Brianna is a project coordinator supervised by Professor Fumiko Hoeft. Brianna coordinated recruitment and research activities for two R01 projects, contributed to undergraduate training, and provided coverage as a Technologist Assistant for clinical scanning, a significant source of revenue for BIRC.

COVID-19 Protocol Updates

Please refer to COVID-19 Guidance for BIRC Users for the most recent information.

BIRC COVID-19 protocols have been updated and simplified to align with University-wide guidance for Fall 2021. All individuals are required to follow campus guidelines at BIRC, including wearing a mask indoors and, if unvaccinated, maintaining 6 feet of distance from others when indoors. Researchers are encouraged to review the updated COVID-19 online EHS training.

While at BIRC, please observe the following procedures in addition to campus guidelines:

  • Disinfect touch surfaces after use.
  • Participants must continue to change into scrubs for MRI procedures.
  • Health screening: You must perform on yourself and your research participants 24H before arrival and upon arrival. Please bring your own form.
  • All individuals must properly wear face masks inside BIRC. Participants may remove their mask while inside the MRI. Researchers are responsible for providing face masks for themselves and participants.

Key changes from prior BIRC policy include:

  • Labs are no longer required to maintain COVID-19 safety protocols.
  • Researchers may now interact with masked participants without the use of gowns, face shields, or gloves.
  • Room capacity limits have been removed. For their own protection, unvaccinated individuals are requested to maintain 6 feet social distancing space from others.
  • The BIRC conference room may be reserved for meetings held in accordance with campus guidelines. All rooms and resources must be reserved prior to use.
  • The BIRC conference room may also be reserved for distanced indoor eating when necessary. If you will be eating in the conference room, minimize eating/drinking time and reserve an additional one hour beyond the occupancy period.
  • Please have participants enter BIRC using our main entrance. The employee entrance may still be used for participants on weekends. It is not necessary to sign in/out.

MRI Safety Week July 26 – August 1, 2021

The last week in July is universally recognized as “MR Safety Week,” inspired by the anniversary and 2001 tragic MRI-related death of Michael Colombini, age 6, resulting from a steel oxygen cylinder being brought into the MRI room during his exam. The initial goal of this week was to prevent such a tragedy from happening again and has expanded into a week-long event giving us a chance to refresh our safety education and highlight some of the issues we all face in the MR environment.


Given that ‘magnetic’ is the first part of the name, many people know that MRI scanners attract magnetizable metals to them, potentially with alarming force. But do you know the other risk(s) that our staff actively manage to help keep MRI participants, patients and workers safe? See if you can pick out the other risk (or risks) that is (are) particular to MRI…


  • An MRI can act on your inner-ear and give you a sense of vertigo / make you dizzy.
  • MRI’s magnetic fields can cause non-MRI-friendly mechanical medication pumps to malfunction, potentially delivering too much, or too little medication.
  • During MRI imaging, energies deposited into the patient’s body can slightly elevate their core temperature.
  • During MRI imaging, certain electromagnetic pulses have been known to ‘trick’ implanted pacemakers into delivering inappropriate & potentially dangerous ‘corrective’ shocks.
  • During MRI imaging, some wires in the tube with the patient can heat up and burn the MRI patient.
  • During MRI imaging, sometimes electrical currents will flow through the patient’s body, concentrating in small spots where the patient will develop burns.
  • Implanted objects made out of magnetizable metals can pull or tear the tissues that they’re next to when attracted by the MRI’s magnetic field.


If you read through them all, and had a hard time narrowing the list down to one or two, that’s probably because this is a bit of a trick question… all seven of the above items are real risks / hazards that come from MRI in addition to pulling metal objects across the room.

As always, if you ever have a question about the safety of an object in the MRI environment, please contact us. We are happy to help!

Elisa Medeiros, Manager, MRI Services

Morgan Brennan, MRI Technologist

Tanda Dumas, MRI Technologist

Johnny Hernandez, MRI Technologist

Skyler Sklenarik, IBRAiN intern

Content courtesy of Tobias Gilk and ISMRM

Fumiko Hoeft and Colleagues Receive NIH U24 Grant

Five new research networks totaling $3.13 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health will allow investigators to refine and test key concepts that advance the study of emotional well-being.

Fumiko Hoeft, Sandra Marshall, and Crystal Park, in collaboration with UConn InCHIP, UConn Neag School of Education, and UConn Research, have just received funding for their NIH U24 grant exploring the underlying mechanisms of mind-body interventions and measurement of Emotional Well Being. Utilizing imaging resources available at BIRC, this project will illuminate the role of emotional well-being in mind and body interventions as both an outcome itself and as a mechanism in improving mental and physical health outcomes. (Grant U24 AT011281-01; NICHD, OBSSR, and ODP are co-funding partners)

In addition to UConn, the list of research networks includes University of Alabama, University of Wisconsin-Madison, UCSF, and University of Rochester.

For more information, visit UConn Today

More information about the scope of this grant can be found on the NCCIH Research Blog




BIRC Trailblazer Awarded

Congratulations to Margaret Briggs-Gowan, PhD, Xiaomei Cong, PhD, Todd Constable, PhD, Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD, Helen Wu, PhD, Damion Grasso, PhD on receiving the BIRC Trailblazer award for their project Preliminary Longitudinal Study of Fetal, Neonatal and Infant MRI!

This proposal will ultimately contribute important foundational knowledge in the following areas: (1) neurodevelopmental outcomes of children exposed to drugs in the prenatal stage that may be dependent on the nature, timing, and dosage of environmental insult in addition to the child’s neurobiological-genetic- genomic factors and resilience/reserve; (2) timing of opportunities and modifiable targets; and (3) assessing underlying mechanisms of substance use disorder and withdrawal symptom across mother-infant/child generations. Ultimately, research such as ours may help to optimize circuit-based precision interventions in these vulnerable children that have rapidly increased in recent years.