Richard G. Spencer, M.D., Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Laboratory of Clinical Investigation


251 Bayview Boulevard
Suite 100
Baltimore, MD 21224


Research Topics

The Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Section (MRISS) performs biophysical and physiological studies of human subjects, experimental animals, and tissue and cellular preparations. The current focus is on studies of brain and muscle in normative aging and in the setting of specific pathologies of particular interest in the aging population. The techniques range from conventional analyses to highly specialized mathematical approaches to extract tissue information from the magnetic resonance signal.

Our CNS and brain research focus on normative aging and dementia, with the ultimate goal of identifying potential therapeutic targets for cognitive decline. This involves evaluation of myelination patterns, cerebral blood flow, and spectroscopic markers of neuronal mass and biochemical status. Muscle studies center on quantifying diffusion, perfusion, and relaxation times in response to exercise, with an emphasis on normative aging and sarcopenia. Bioenergetic studies using phosphorus-31 magnetic resonance spectroscopy also form a substantial part of the muscle work.

Much of our work incorporates additional endpoints from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging, a major ongoing research initiative at the NIA.

In addition to these human studies, extensive related animal work is also performed.


Richard Spencer obtained his Master's Degree in Physics from U.C. Berkeley in 1979, his Ph.D. in Medical Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1987, working with Professor Joanne Ingwall at the NMR Laboratory for Physiological Chemistry of Harvard Medical School, and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1988. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Robert Griffin at the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory of MIT before joining the National Institute on Aging in 1991, where he is now Chief of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Section. He completed medical residency training at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Spencer is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American College of Physicians, and the Norbert Wiener Center for Harmonic Analysis of the Department of Mathematics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD. He is also a Fellow Elect of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).

Selected Publications

  1. Bouhrara M, Bonny JM, Ashinsky BG, Maring MC, Spencer RG. Noise Estimation and Reduction in Magnetic Resonance Imaging Using a New Multispectral Nonlocal Maximum-likelihood Filter. IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2017;36(1):181-193.
  2. Cameron D, Bouhrara M, Reiter DA, Fishbein KW, Choi S, Bergeron CM, Ferrucci L, Spencer RG. The effect of noise and lipid signals on determination of Gaussian and non-Gaussian diffusion parameters in skeletal muscle. NMR Biomed. 2017;30(7).
  3. Adelnia F, Cameron D, Bergeron CM, Fishbein KW, Spencer RG, Reiter DA, Ferrucci L. The Role of Muscle Perfusion in the Age-Associated Decline of Mitochondrial Function in Healthy Individuals. Front Physiol. 2019;10:427.
  4. Bouhrara M, Cortina LE, Rejimon AC, Khattar N, Bergeron C, Bergeron J, Melvin D, Zukley L, Spencer RG. Quantitative age-dependent differences in human brainstem myelination assessed using high-resolution magnetic resonance mapping. Neuroimage. 2020;206:116307.
  5. Bouhrara M, Reiter DA, Bergeron CM, Zukley LM, Ferrucci L, Resnick SM, Spencer RG. Evidence of demyelination in mild cognitive impairment and dementia using a direct and specific magnetic resonance imaging measure of myelin content. Alzheimers Dement. 2018;14(8):998-1004.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Wednesday, September 2, 2020