Policies and Procedures

1. Contacting us and trouble-shooting problems

The Head Technologist (Mark Vignone) will coordinate all requests for assistance. He can be reached via email (vignone@pitt.edu) or phone (412-383-8008). Depending upon your needs (new user account set up, question about safety or an incidental finding, advice on pulse sequences, data transfer and storage from NIC), he will either resolve the problem himself or direct you to the appropriate person.

2. New Account Set-Up

If you are new to NIC, you should begin by contacting the Head Technologist (Mark Vignone), who will provide you with initial advice and direct you to the appropriate individuals for support. To obtain a User account at NIC, the items listed below will be required. Please send these items electronically to NIC’s Administrative Coordinator (Tomika Cohen, tdc52@pitt.edu). Once these documents have been reviewed and approved, you will receive a welcome letter from the Administrative Coordinator stating your account number and other start-up information.

3. Neuroscience Imaging Center administrative team

4. Scheduling Policies

The NIC schedule is created once every four months, with interim adjustments if needed. All users are assigned fixed slots designed to meet the research needs of each lab. Slots are usually 1.5 h or 2 h in duration, but can be adjusted in .5 h increments if necessary. Slots are usually assigned to occur every week, with each lab typically assigned a total of 1-6 h of scanning time each week. Labs with clinical or juvenile participants will be given priority in the assignment of specific days and times. Labs are encouraged to identify staff members willing to run subjects in the evening and weekends.

To maximize resource allocation, each PI will be subject to an upper limit on the number of fixed hours that can be requested each week. A PI is defined as a tenure or non-tenure stream faculty member. The upper limit will be subject to the overall constraints on the NIC schedule, but the center will aim for a cap of 150% of the average number of monthly hours billed in the preceding three months. Users may request consideration to expand beyond this cap in the event that they realistically anticipate an upsurge in their scanning rate. In the event that the total number of requested hours exceeds the time available in the NIC schedule, preference will be given to users with the lowest three-month history of cancellations. The focus will be on cancellations that occur with less than 96 hours’ advance notice, because such cancellations are generally unrecoverable time.

New users who enter during a BIRC schedule period will be fitted into the NIC schedule if room is available. If not, they will have first priority over unscheduled time and cancelled time, and will be incorporated into the schedule once the new four-month cycle begins. New investigators will be allowed to request up to 6 h per week, though a more modest initial use (1-3 h per week) is typical. Once users have established a three-month billing history they will be subject to the constraints outlined above.

NIC recognizes that some labs study volunteer populations that may be hard to fit into the fixed- slot model. Labs are encouraged to cooperate with requests to swap slots, and a contact list will be maintained to facilitate such cooperation. In the event that such informal procedures are not effective, an alternative scheduling mechanism will be identified.

Labs must actively schedule their assigned slots through the web interface at www.birc.pitt.edu. An assigned slot must be reserved two weeks in advance, or else the slot will return to the general pool and can be requested by another lab. As an example, to avoid losing a slot that occurs on the 15th day of the month, the slot must be requested by 9:30 a.m. on the 1st day of the month. Labs may schedule additional time beyond their allocated time, as noted below:

5. Scheduling Shakedown Scans & Pulse Sequence Testing

One free scan, also known as the “shakedown” scan, is offered to test your new protocol(s) and equipment in the actual scanning situation during normal scan hours. The shakedown scan can be run with your fMRI paradigm. Because the scanning schedule already operates near full capacity, shakedowns must occur at an open time on the schedule.

Often when new studies have begun, labs inquire about scheduling scan time(s) to test or modify their new paradigms. We ask that new users or users with new projects consult with the Head Technologist to set up MR sequences and scanning parameters. Pulse sequences can be tested with a phantom as well as with a subject. To test with a subject, you should provide the consent form from your own IRB protocol. In case the IRB protocol has not been approved yet, NIC may be able to provide the NIC IRB consent, but only for the test scans. Note that these kinds of scans are scheduled accordingly to the Scheduling Policy, particularly the section that deals with shakedown scans and equipment tests.

6. Cancellation Procedures

Users can cancel requested slots through the online scheduling calendar. Users are encouraged to release unwanted time as early as possible, so that other groups may use the time. High cancellation rates will affect the number of slots that a group is allocated on the NIC schedule.

6. Cancellation Procedures

It is the Principal Investigator’s responsibility to take appropriate action if an incidental finding (unexpected brain abnormality) is detected. To facilitate the investigator’s actions, NIC has established the following procedures. If at any time during your scan of your subject there is a suspected abnormality identified by the MR technologist:

9. Fundamental Magnet Safety

The safety of NIC research participants, staff, and investigators is a paramount concern. All research and staff members who will enter the scan room must complete safety training. It is the responsibility of NIC PIs to ensure that their staff meet this requirement, through involvement in a safety training session regularly offered by the Head Technologist. Attention to the following action items for each scan session is a critical element for ensuring safety at a daily level: