A photo of Kim Cecil.

Kim M. Cecil, PhD

  • Spectroscopist, Imaging Research Center
  • Director, Basic and Translational Radiology Research
  • Professor, UC Department of Radiology
  • UC Department of Pediatrics; UC Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences



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.

BS: Chemistry & Mathematics (magna cum laude), Kentucky Wesleyan College, 1988.

MS: Chemistry, Vanderbilt University, 1991.

PhD: Chemistry, Vanderbilt University, 1993.

Fellowship: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; creatine deficiency syndromes


Magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy; inborn errors of metabolism; environmental exposures to lead manganese, air pollution, flame retardants, perfluoroakylated substances; traumatic brain injury including concussion; Tourette Syndrome, Neurofibromatosis type 1; ADHD; bipolar disorders; breast cancer; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Research Areas

Radiology, Imaging



Acute Neurofunctional Effects of Escitalopram in Pediatric Anxiety: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Lu, L; Mills, JA; Li, H; Schroeder, HK; Mossman, SA; Varney, ST; Cecil, KM; Huang, X; Gong, Q; Ramsey, LB; et al. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2021; 60:1309-1318.


Associations of Maternal Serum Perfluoroalkyl Substances Concentrations with Early Adolescent Bone Mineral Content and Density: The Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) Study. Buckley, JP; Kuiper, JR; Lanphear, BP; Calafat, AM; Cecil, KM; Chen, A; Xu, Y; Yolton, K; Kalkwarf, HJ; Braun, JM. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2021; 129:97011.


Multi-site, multi-platform comparison of MRI T1 measurement using the system phantom. Keenan, KE; Gimbutas, Z; Dienstfrey, A; Stupic, KF; Boss, MA; Russek, SE; Chenevert, TL; Prasad, PV; Guo, J; Reddick, WE; et al. PloS one. 2021; 16:e0252966.


Gestational and childhood exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and cardiometabolic risk at age 12 years. Li, N; Liu, Y; Papandonatos, GD; Calafat, AM; Eaton, CB; Kelsey, KT; Cecil, KM; Kalkwarf, HJ; Yolton, K; Lanphear, BP; et al. Environment International. 2021; 147:106344.


Progression of Fatty Liver Disease in Children Receiving Standard of Care Lifestyle Advice. Xanthakos, SA; Lavine, JE; Yates, KP; Schwimmer, JB; Molleston, JP; Rosenthal, P; Murray, KF; Vos, MB; Jain, AK; Scheimann, AO; et al. Gastroenterology. 2020; 159:1731-1751.e10.


Escitalopram in Adolescents With Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Strawn, JR; Mills, JA; Schroeder, H; Mossman, SA; Varney, ST; Ramsey, LB; Poweleit, EA; Desta, Z; Cecil, K; DelBello, MP. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2020; 81:20m13396.


Reduced gray matter volume and cortical thickness associated with traffic-related air pollution in a longitudinally studied pediatric cohort. Beckwith, T; Cecil, K; Altaye, M; Severs, R; Wolfe, C; Percy, Z; Maloney, T; Yolton, K; LeMasters, G; Brunst, K; et al. PloS one. 2020; 15:e0228092.


Myo-inositol mediates the effects of traffic-related air pollution on generalized anxiety symptoms at age 12 years. Brunst, KJ; Ryan, PH; Altaye, M; Yolton, K; Maloney, T; Beckwith, T; LeMasters, G; Cecil, KM. Environmental Research. 2019; 175:71-78.


lifetime exposure to traffic-related air pollution and symptoms of depression and anxiety at age 12 years. Yolton, K; Khoury, JC; Burkle, J; LeMasters, G; Cecil, K; Ryan, P. Environmental Research. 2019; 173:199-206.


Big GABA II: Water-referenced edited MR spectroscopy at 25 research sites. Mikkelsen, M; Rimbault, DL; Barker, PB; Bhattacharyya, PK; Brix, MK; Buur, PF; Cecil, KM; Chan, KL; Chen, DY-T; Craven, AR; et al. Neuroimage. 2019; 191:537-548.