Emerging ethical issues raised by highly portable MRI research in remote and resource-limited international settings

Francis X. Shen, Susan M. Wolf, Supriya Bhavnani, Sean Deoni, Jed T. Elison, Damien Fair, Michael Garwood, Michael S. Gee, Sairam Geethanath, Kendrick Kay, Kelvin O. Lim, Georgia Lockwood Estrin, Monica Luciana, David Peloquin, Karen Rommelfanger, Nicoline Schiess, Khan Siddiqui, Efraín Torres, J. Thomas Vaughan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Smaller, more affordable, and more portable MRI brain scanners offer exciting opportunities to address unmet research needs and long-standing health inequities in remote and resource-limited international settings. Field-based neuroimaging research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) can improve local capacity to conduct both structural and functional neuroscience studies, expand knowledge of brain injury and neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, and ultimately improve the timeliness and quality of clinical diagnosis and treatment around the globe. Facilitating MRI research in remote settings can also diversify reference databases in neuroscience, improve understanding of brain development and degeneration across the lifespan in diverse populations, and help to create reliable measurements of infant and child development. These deeper understandings can lead to new strategies for collaborating with communities to mitigate and hopefully overcome challenges that negatively impact brain development and quality of life. Despite the potential importance of research using highly portable MRI in remote and resource-limited settings, there is little analysis of the attendant ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI). To begin addressing this gap, this paper presents findings from the first phase of an envisioned multi-staged and iterative approach for creating ethical and legal guidance in a complex global landscape. Section 1 provides a brief introduction to the emerging technology for field-based MRI research. Section 2 presents our methodology for generating plausible use cases for MRI research in remote and resource-limited settings and identifying associated ELSI issues. Section 3 analyzes core ELSI issues in designing and conducting field-based MRI research in remote, resource-limited settings and offers recommendations. We argue that a guiding principle for field-based MRI research in these contexts should be including local communities and research participants throughout the research process in order to create sustained local value. Section 4 presents a recommended path for the next phase of work that could further adapt these use cases, address ethical and legal issues, and co-develop guidance in partnership with local communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118210
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • International research
  • Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
  • Neuroethics
  • Neuroimaging
  • Portable MRI

Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) tags



Dive into the research topics of 'Emerging ethical issues raised by highly portable MRI research in remote and resource-limited international settings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this