Ryan Larsen



  • 4151 Beckman Institute
  • 405 North Mathews Avenue
  • Urbana, Illinois 61801


Dr. Ryan Larsen provides technical support of research on the 3 Tesla human MRI scanners at the Biomedical Imaging Center.  He develops methods and technologies that are used by neuroscientists and other researchers at the Beckman Institute.  Dr. Larsen’s primary research focus is on improving quantitation of Magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and applying these methods to study the relationships between brain chemistry, cognitive performance, and nutrition.   This work is funded by the Center for Nutrition Learning and Memory, sponsored by Abbott Nutrition.  Dr. Larsen also assists users of the facility with protocol development and analysis of data, and helps to ensure smooth day-to-day operation of the scanners.  Dr. Larsen has assisted with a variety of MRI research projects, including functional-MRI, simultaneous EEG-fMRI measurements, arterial spin labeling, relaxation time measurements, and multi-nuclear spectroscopy.  Dr. Larsen holds a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University.  He has also performed research on a variety of topics in materials science and mechanics.


Magnetic resonance spectroscopy provides non-invasive measurements of brain chemistry. However, a major challenge of the technique is quantification of the signal for accurate concentration measurements.  The problem is that the magnetic resonance signal from a given chemical depends not only on the concentration of the chemical, but also on unrelated factors such as the size of the subject, the placement of the subject in the magnet, and the placement of the imaging volume within the brain.   Our research demonstrates that by correcting for these factors it is possible to dramatically decrease the variation in measured chemistry within a group of subjects.  Because this additional variation is likely not related to chemical concentration, the corrections we perform provide dramatic improvements in the statistical power of studies, potentially reducing the number of subjects required to observe an effect by a factor of two or more.  The analysis pipeline that we have developed has already been used in two studies to demonstrate correlations between fluid intelligence and concentrations of N-acetylaspartic acid in frontal and parietal brain regions.  We are currently developing additional improvements for better quantification, and we using our analysis methods in various studies to better understand how brain chemistry relates to intelligence, nutrition, and physical fitness.


  • 2016
    • R, J. Larsen, Michael Newman, Aki Nikolaidis. Reduction of variance in measurements of average metabolite concentration in anatomically-defined brain regions. Journal of Magnetic Resonance (2016).
    • E.J. Paul, R.J. Larsen, A. Nikolaidis, N. Ward, C.H. Hillman, N.J. Cohen, A.F. Kramer, and A.K. Barbey. Dissociable brain biomarkers of fluid intelligence. NeuroImage (2016).
    • A. Nikolaidis, P.L. Baniqued, M.B. Kranz, C.J. Scavuzzo, A.K. Barbey, A.F. Kramer, R.J. Larsen. Multivariate Associations of Fluid Intelligence and NAA. Cerebral Cortex (2016).
    • C. J. Scavuzzo, C.J. Moulton, R.J. Larsen. The use of Magnetic Resonance Spectrosocpy for assessing the effect of diet on cognition. Nutritional Neuroscience (2016).


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