Can a dog improve your MRI experience? A new study suggests that a canine companion may be just what you need to reduce anxiety over the common test.

If you've ever had an MRI test done, you know that it can be difficult to relax inside the loud, confined space. Even though the test is not painful or dangerous, most people feel at least a little anxious about the procedure. For those with claustrophobia, an MRI can be extremely anxiety-provoking. The test usually takes at least 30 minutes, and can take as long as two hours depending on the area being scanned. Patients are often alone in the room, and are not supposed to move for the duration of the test.

Because you need to lie very still in order for the test to produce useful results, people who feel anxious about the procedure are often given sedatives. A new study, however, found that animal-assisted therapy prior to an MRI could substitute for anti-anxiety medication, providing significant relief from anxiety without any of the pharmacological side effects.

Interestingly, the study was conceived and researched by a high school student who relieved her anxiety during her own MRI by picturing her dog. Allison Ruchman, 15 years old, thought that other patients undergoing an MRI may benefit from animal-assisted therapy, and it seems she was right.

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