Peter Joel Basser, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Section on Quantitative Imaging and Tissue Sciences


13 South Drive
Building 13, Room 3W16
Bethesda, MD 20892-5772


Research Topics

Quantitative Imaging and Tissue Sciences

We attempt to understand fundamental relationships between function and structure in living tissues, “engineered” tissue constructs, and tissue analogs. Specifically, we are interested in how a tissue's microstructure, hierarchical organization, composition, and material properties affect its biological function and dysfunction. We investigate biological and physical model systems at different time and length scales, making physical measurements informed by mathematical and computational models we develop in tandem. Primarily, we use water molecules to probe both equilibrium and dynamic interactions among tissue constituents over a wide range of time and length scales. To determine the equilibrium osmo-mechanical properties of well-defined model systems, we vary water content or ionic composition. To probe tissue structure and dynamics, we employ atomic force microscopy (AFM), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), static light scattering (SLS), dynamic light scattering (DLS), and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry and diffusometry. We develop and use mathematical models to help us understand how observed changes in tissue microstructure and physical properties (e.g., mass, charge, and momentum) affect essential transport processes. The most direct noninvasive in vivo method for characterizing these transport in tissues is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which we use to follow microstructural changes in development, degeneration, aging, and trauma. A goal of our basic tissue sciences research is to translate our quantitative methodologies and the understanding we glean from them from "bench to bedside."


Dr. Peter Basser received his A.B., S.M., and Ph.D. in Engineering Sciences from Harvard University and his postdoctoral training in Bioengineering in the NIH IRP.  In 1997, he became a Senior Investigator, and Chief of the Section on Tissue Biophysics and Biomimetics (STBB), NICHD, and then later served as Director of the Program on Pediatric Imaging and Tissue Sciences until 2015. At that point, he was appointed to be the Associate Scientific Director for Imaging, Behavior, and Genomic Integrity within the NICHD IRP.

Dr. Basser is primarily known the invention, development, and clinical implementation of MR diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and several other quantitative MRI methods for performing in vivo MRI histology or "microstructure imaging".  These include CHARMED and AxCaliber MRI, which measures the mean axon diameter and axon diameter distribution, respectively, within white matter fascicles, and double Pulsed-Field Gradient (dPFG) MRI methods, which are used to elucidate distinct microstructural features of both gray and white matter in the brain.

Selected Publications

  1. Komlosh ME, Horkay F, Freidlin RZ, Nevo U, Assaf Y, Basser PJ. Detection of microscopic anisotropy in gray matter and in a novel tissue phantom using double Pulsed Gradient Spin Echo MR. J Magn Reson. 2007;189(1):38-45.

  2. Basser PJ, Pajevic S, Pierpaoli C, Duda J, Aldroubi A. In vivo fiber tractography using DT-MRI data. Magn Reson Med. 2000;44(4):625-32.

  3. Özarslan E, Koay CG, Shepherd TM, Komlosh ME, İrfanoğlu MO, Pierpaoli C, Basser PJ. Mean apparent propagator (MAP) MRI: a novel diffusion imaging method for mapping tissue microstructure. Neuroimage. 2013;78:16-32.

This page was last updated on August 7th, 2018