Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 38, Issue 8, pp 1581–1590 | Cite as

Brief Report: Methods for Acquiring Structural MRI Data in Very Young Children with Autism Without the Use of Sedation

  • Christine Wu NordahlEmail author
  • Tony J. Simon
  • Cynthia Zierhut
  • Marjorie Solomon
  • Sally J. Rogers
  • David G. Amaral
Brief Report


We describe a protocol with which we achieved a 93% success rate in acquiring high quality MRI scans without the use of sedation in 2.5–4.5 year old children with autism, developmental delays, and typical development. Our main strategy was to conduct MRIs during natural nocturnal sleep in the evenings after the child’s normal bedtime. Alternatively, with some older and higher functioning children, the MRI was conducted while the child was awake and watching a video. Both strategies relied heavily on the creation of a child and family friendly MRI environment and the involvement of parents as collaborators in the project. Scanning very young children with autism, typical development, and developmental delays without the use of sedation or anesthesia was possible in the majority of cases.


MRI Autism Natural sleep Sedation Children Toddlers 



This research was carried out as a component of the UC Davis Autism Phenome Project (APP). It was supported, in part, by the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and the Autism Research Training Program (T32 MH073124). We thank Steve Dager, Bob Almli, Susan Rivera, and April Benasich for helpful advice, Carolyn McCormick and Cherie Green for excellent technical assistance, and Cameron Carter and the UC Davis Imaging Research Center for flexibility and support. The following individuals were instrumental in carrying out the APP: Lou Ann Barnett, Meridith Brandt, Lisa Cochran, Susan Rumberg, and Meagan Thompson. We especially thank all of the parents and children who participated in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Wu Nordahl
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tony J. Simon
    • 2
  • Cynthia Zierhut
    • 3
  • Marjorie Solomon
    • 2
  • Sally J. Rogers
    • 2
  • David G. Amaral
    • 2
  1. 1.M.I.N.D. Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of California at DavisSacramentoUSA
  2. 2.M.I.N.D. Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of California at DavisSacramentoUSA
  3. 3.M.I.N.D. InstituteUniversity of California at DavisSacramentoUSA

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