Investigating the Impact of the fMRI Environment and the Supine Position on Cognitive Function
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Neuroimaging techniques, such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), have allowed researchers to investigate active neuronal structures in relation to cognitive theories using a non-invasive technique. Although most experiments in neuropsychology require participants to perform tasks in an upright position, fMRI requires participants to perform cognitive tests while recumbent and motionless inside a narrow bore. The psychological and physical stressors introduce, such as loud noises, head restraints and a supine position, can alter brain hydrostatics and influence cognitive processing. The current study investigates the effects of the entire fMRI environment and the supine position on cognitive function. 32 participants completed a problem-solving, two-digit-by-two-digit multiplication task in two settings, a standard setting (a silent standard laboratory cubicle) and a non-standard setting (either the fMRI simulator or the supine position) and mean response times and accuracy between settings were compared. Results indicated that healthy young adults showed no difference in either response time or accuracy performance in the non-standard setting compared to the laboratory. It was found that there was no significant interaction between the groups and settings, no difference between the groups and no effects of the setting. Whilst neither the fMRI nor supine position effects cognitive performance in relation to the multiplication task, it is suggested that the task is impacted by the different conditions in a way that is different to other tasks. As this test is previously untested, it is undetermined whether it can be used to comprehensively study cognitive functioning using this technology.