Richard Leigh, M.D.

Assistant Clinical Investigator

Neuro Vascular Brain Imaging Unit


Building 10, Room B1D-733
10 Center Dr
Bethesda, MD 20892-1063


Research Topics

The Neuro Vascular Brain Imaging Unit is focused on using MRI to better understand disease states that occur at the interface between blood vessels and the brain. This encompasses acute cerebral ischemia caused by an occluded blood vessel as well as chronic cerebral ischemia that can be associated with dementia. The goal is to understand how MRI can serve as a biomarker for the natural history of cerebrovascular disease such that we may identify targets for therapy upon which to design clinical trials. This is approached in three ways: improve the way we currently use MRI techniques through quantification; identify new types of information that can be extracted from existing techniques; develop new types of MRI acquisition methods.

Our lab has developed a new method for post-processing MRI scans originally obtained for the purpose of blood flow imaging, such that the integrity of the interface between the blood vessels and the brain, commonly referred to as the blood-brain barrier (BBB), can be measured. Unlike other neurologic diseases in which BBB disruption can serve as a target for therapy, the role of BBB disruption in acute and chronic ischemia is very unclear. Blood-Brain Permeability Imaging (BBPI) has given us a new way to study this important pathologic finding and may help guide future therapeutic interventions.


Dr. Leigh did his undergraduate training at Johns Hopkins University where he majored in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering. He then attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University and completed a medical internship and neurology residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center where he received the Distinguished Housestaff Award and was named Chief Resident in Neurology. He returned to Johns Hopkins for stroke fellowship and subsequently stayed on as neurology faculty with a secondary appointment in the department of radiology. In 2014, Dr. Leigh was recruited to the NINDS Intramural Stroke Branch as an Assistant Clinical Investigator. Dr. Leigh heads the Neuro Vascular Brain Imaging Unit, which uses MRI to study disease states that occur at the interface between blood vessels and the brain.

Selected Publications

  1. Simpkins AN, Dias C, Leigh R, National Institutes of Health Natural History of Stroke Investigators.. Identification of Reversible Disruption of the Human Blood-Brain Barrier Following Acute Ischemia. Stroke. 2016;47(9):2405-8.

  2. Leigh R, Christensen S, Campbell BC, Marks MP, Albers GW, Lansberg MG, DEFUSE 2 Investigators.. Pretreatment blood-brain barrier disruption and post-endovascular intracranial hemorrhage. Neurology. 2016;87(3):263-9.

  3. Leigh R, Knutsson L, Zhou J, van Zijl PC. Imaging the physiological evolution of the ischemic penumbra in acute ischemic stroke. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2017:271678X17700913.

  4. Simpkins AN, Dias C, Norato G, Kim E, Leigh R, NIH Natural History of Stroke Investigators.. Early Change in Stroke Size Performs Best in Predicting Response to Therapy. Cerebrovasc Dis. 2017;44(3-4):141-149.

  5. Heo HY, Zhang Y, Burton TM, Jiang S, Zhao Y, van Zijl PCM, Leigh R, Zhou J. Improving the detection sensitivity of pH-weighted amide proton transfer MRI in acute stroke patients using extrapolated semisolid magnetization transfer reference signals. Magn Reson Med. 2017;78(3):871-880.

This page was last updated on August 31st, 2017