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149 nonfiction I Like to Move It “Don’t move,” the technician named Molly says. Then she squeezes my ankle and leaves the room. Move? I’m supine, with a thick white semicircular cage locked across my entire face. Rubber chocks im­ mobilize my neck and head on a table so narrow I think one deep breath could topple me. Even if I weren’t dizzy. But I’ve been dizzy nonstop for thirteen weeks and six days. When I lie, sit, stand, move. When I look up or down, left or right. When wind stirs the maple leaves outside my bedroom window or birds fly by or images flash on the television screen. I can’t drive, need a cane to walk, have fallen in grocery stores and on sidewalks. Persistent dizziness and vertigo are why I’m here, in a remodeled former cake factory, about to be drawn into the bore of a giant magnet. The magnet will force hydrogen atoms in my brain to line up neatly, then bombard them with radio waves so a computer can identify what’s causing the problem in my brain or inner ear. Movement Sway smooth: me sound track for an mri of the brain Floyd Skloot 150 ecotone is something I’m no longer good at, and no longer do without careful planning. So, okay, Molly, I won’t move. Suddenly her voice is in my head. “Earphones work?” I force myself not to nod, and risk a shallow-breathed whisper: “Unless I’m having aural hallucinations.” “Good. Now what kind of music do you like?” Like most people, my head is often filled with music. Broadway, 1950s rock, the pop crooners, dance music. A random word can trigger a whole string of melody and lyrics, which explains why the song running through my brain now, triggered a moment ago by Molly’s telling me not move, is Reel 2 Real’s 1994 hit “I Like to Move It.” It’s been a sticky song—an earworm—for me since my wife, Beverly, and I watched Julianne Hough and Apolo Anton Ono samba to it on Dancing with the Stars. I like to move it, move it. I like to move it, move it. “Music?” “Yeah, we can play music through your earphones. Helps distract you. Some of the scans can be a little noisy.” A little noisy. I’ve had two brain MRIs before, twenty years ago, and remember feeling as though I were stuck inside a jackhammer. Without thinking, and overriding the crazed tune in my head, I tell Molly, “The old standards.” That seems to confound her. There’s a click in my earphones, then silence, then another click. “Name a singer you like.” I doubt she’d know who Vaughan Monroe was. Or Matt Munro, either. “How about Michael Bublé?” “That’ll work.” She reminds me about the squeeze ball she handed me to use if I need help, and re-reminds me not to move. Then the table is moving backward and I know enough to close my eyes so I won’t have to see the tiny space where I’ll be spending the next forty-five minutes. Molly’s view of me now: the pale blue paper shorts I’ve been issued, from which protrude my legs and feet, held absolutely still. Feeling Good Google the phrase MRI noise and you find a range of descriptions: banging, beeping, buzzing, clanging, clicking, grinding, hammering, 151 floyd skloot knocking, tapping, whirring. But the adjective preceding those descriptions is consistent: loud. And for brain images that loud noise is scant inches from your ears. According to, an MRI’s noise is caused by “the rising electrical current in the wires of the gradient magnets being opposed by the main magnetic field. The stronger the main field, the louder the gradient noise.” Or, as the Boston Globe explains, “The fact that the strength of the magnet has to be changed over time and position means that all sorts of things move at least a bit in response to it, and that motion makes sound—that clanging noise.” As the magnet scans to generate several sets...


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pp. 149-162
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