The design of my research efforts focuses on uncovering hidden aspects of injury and disease. I do this through the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. I investigate how environmental exposures to heavy metals (lead, manganese), air pollutants, flame retardants and perfluorinated chemicals alter brain development. I believe that clinical care, along with research, can dramatically change, and hopefully improve, the trajectory of a child’s entire life.
I also use these imaging methods to identify inborn errors of metabolism, and study Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury (including concussion) and mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorders. In addition, I measure how fat is deposited in the liver of children with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
My broad scope of research interests has grown over the years due to strong collaborations with other clinicians and researchers. I provide special tools with imaging and spectroscopy to help study many conditions. After initially training in a chemistry laboratory, I knew I wanted to do something to help people more directly. Working in radiology with MRI tools, I can apply my skills and knowledge to improve our understanding of how disease impacts the body and how people respond to treatments.
I began my work at Cincinnati Children’s in 1998. Throughout my career, it has been my honor to receive several awards, including:
- The Derek Harwood Nash Award for research in pediatric neuroradiology from the American Society of Neuroradiology (2006)
- The General Neuroradiology Outstanding Presentation Award from the American Society of Neuroradiology (2008)
- The Caffey Award for the best clinical science or education paper from the Society for Pediatric Radiology (2008)
- The Thomas L. Slovis Award for the best scientific paper published in the Society for Pediatric Radiology’s journal: Pediatric Radiology (2018)
In 2000, Antonius de Grauw, MD, PhD, and Gajja Salomons, PhD, and I, discovered creatine transporter deficiency syndrome — a genetic disorder caused by mutations in the creatine transporter gene. Male patients demonstrate a significant reduction or absence of creatine in the brain, as revealed by magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We think this X-linked intellectual disability disorder is second only to Fragile X in prevalence.
The media has reported my studies of environmental exposures. My work investigating lead exposure was highlighted in an episode of NOVA that focused on the Flint Michigan lead-water crisis. More importantly, my research findings are included in documents that inform policymakers. My research will provide evidence to prevent widespread poisoning from occurring again with newly developed chemicals.