MRI Safety Training

Safety Training is required for anyone who uses the MRI scanner or works on any aspect of a project at the Imaging Center (including, for example, research assistants who look after participants waiting to be scanned). This regularly scheduled course is taught in a single session. Please email Sean Molnar (smolnar at if you have any questions. Memorize the contents of this short safety document (PDF here) before coming to training.

MRI Operator Training

We encourage regular users of the scanner to become Scanner Operators where possible. This has the advantage of saving on the cost of hiring an operator and can increase scanning flexibility and efficiency.

In order to become a Scanner Operator at the SDSU Imaging Center, an Safety Trained individual must complete operator training with an Operator Trainer. The process involves not only learning how to safely put subjects into the scanner and operate the scanner console computer, but also becoming familiar with Imaging Center equipment, emergency procedures, and data transfer. On average, training lasts approximately 20 hours. Until complete, trainees are not allowed to operate the scanner without the assistance of an Operator Trainer.

First, identify an Operator Trainer who is willing to help you. Reach out to Sean Molnar for a list of trainers. This person is then responsible for ensuring the completeness of your training, although other trainers may also contribute. Once the trainer has agreed, the Principal Investigator on your project needs to send an email to Marty Sereno (msereno at and Sean Molnar (smolnar at, cc'ing your main trainer to confirm that they are happy for you to start the training.

The trainee immediately takes over scanning operations on study subjects under direct supervision of the trainer. As the trainee gains experience, the trainer will typically merely field occasional questions. In the early stages of operator training, especially where functional MRI experiments are being run on human subjects, it is most efficient if the pulse sequences and stimulus software have already been thoroughly piloted and debugged. Alternatively, another lab member (not you or your operator trainer) can take care of running the stimulus, so that you can focus on first learning how to run the scanner and interact with the subject.

Efficient functional MRI scanning involves short periods intensive task-switching (setting up the next pulse sequence, while talking to the subject, and while simultaneously readying the stimulus software), followed by long boring stretches of listening to scanner.

When the trainer feels that the trainee is ready, the trainer and trainee contact Marty Sereno for a final training test session, to make sure that all of the trainee's questions are addressed and that they demonstrate confidence and security in all aspects of scanner operation. After passing this final 'drivers test', the trainee will be entered as an official Scanner Operator.

Neuroimaging and Neuroscience Courses

Two publicly accessible online SDSU semester courses (upper level undergraduate, core graduate) that provide background in neuroimaging physics and neuroscience taught by Marty Sereno are available here:

Foundations of Neuroimaging
Systems Neuroscience

These include extensive PDF course notes, PDF background readings, MATLAB homeworks, and example tests. Here are direct links to the SDSU Learning Glass lecture videos:

Lecture Videos — Foundations of Neuroimaging (58 one-hour videos)
Lecture Videos — Systems Neuroscience (52 one-hour videos)

Echo Trains (Foundations of Neuroimaging — Lecture 11b)

Background Image: "FishyTopy" Claudia Fernety