Dr. Desmond's research focuses broadly on neuroimaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation methods to investigate neural correlates of behavior. Some specific areas of interest are:

  • The contributions of the cerebellum, and cerebro-cerebellar circuits, to cognition
  • Aging effects on awareness and cerebro-cerebellar function
  • Integration of transcranial magnetic stimulation with functional MRI to assess which sites of activation are necessary to performance
  • Clinical applications of functional MRI, including characterization of altered brain activation due to disease, surgical planning, and diagnosis
  • Methodological aspects of functional MRI, such as estimating statistical power for group analyses. more


  • Professor of Neurology
  • Professor of Neuroscience

Departments / Divisions



  • M.S.; University of Massachusetts (Amherst) (Massachusetts) (1982)
  • Ph.D.; University of Massachusetts (Amherst) (Massachusetts) (1985)
  • B.A.; University of South Florida (Florida) (1978)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The Neuroimaging and Modulation Lab (NIMLAB), directed by Dr. John E. Desmond, is part of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Department of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The laboratory investigates neural correlates of cognition and behavior using neuroimaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and neuromodulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).


  • The contributions of the cerebellum, and cerebro-cerebellar circuits, to cognition. The cerebellum has traditionally been viewed as a structure involved in motor coordination. However, neuroimaging and patient studies have revealed unexpected cerebellar involvement in cognitive performance beyond motor behavior. We are specifically interested in cerebellar contributions to verbal working memory performance.
  • How aging in humans affects neural systems that are important for associative memory. These investigations pay special attention to two systems particularly important for classical conditioning, the medial temporal lobe and the cerebellum. The implications of this research are that simple eyeblink conditioning procedures may provide reliable indications of the integrity of cerebellar and medial temporal lobe structures. Such indications could be particularly useful for assessing brain dysfunction in disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease.
  • Integration of transcranial magnetic stimulation with functional MRI. TMS and fMRI are complementary methods, because fMRI can reveal which regions of the brain activate during a cognitive task, whereas TMS can assess which of those activations are necessary for performance.
  • Clinical applications of functional MRI, including characterization of altered brain activation due to disease, surgical planning, and diagnosis. An important aspect of fMRI for clinical purposes is that it is powerful enough to assess brain activations at the level of the individual patient as well as at the group level.
  • Methodological aspects of functional MRI, such as estimating statistical power for group analyses. Such information can be used for designing neuroimaging studies with the appropriate sample size for detecting significant differences between conditions, or significant differences between populations of subjects.


Neuroimaging and Modulation Laboratory

Lab Website: Neuroimaging and Modulation Laboratory (NIMLAB)

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

  1. Static field influences on transcranial magnetic stimulation: considerations for TMS in the scanner environment. Yau JM, Jalinous R, Cantarero GL, Desmond JE. Brain Stimul. 2014 May-Jun;7(3):388-93. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2014.02.007. Epub 2014 Feb 20. PMID: 24656916
  2. Feeling better: separate pathways for targeted enhancement of spatial and temporal touch. Yau JM, Celnik P, Hsiao SS, Desmond JE. Psychol Sci. 2014 Feb;25(2):555-65. doi: 10.1177/0956797613511467. Epub 2014 Jan 3. PMID: 24390826
  3. Three-dimensional whole-brain perfusion quantification using pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling MRI at multiple post-labeling delays: accounting for both arterial transit time and impulse response function. Qin Q, Huang AJ, Hua J, Desmond JE, Stevens RD, van Zijl PC. NMR Biomed. 2014 Feb;27(2):116-28. doi: 10.1002/nbm.3040. Epub 2013 Oct 16. PMID: 24307572
  4. Functional MRI of cerebellar activity during eyeblink classical conditioning in children and adults. Cheng DT, Meintjes EM, Stanton ME, Desmond JE, Pienaar M, Dodge NC, Power JM, Molteno CD, Disterhoft JF, Jacobson JL, Jacobson SW. Hum Brain Mapp. 2014 Apr;35(4):1390-403. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22261. Epub 2013 May 14. PMID: 23674498
  5. Efficient and robust identification of cortical targets in concurrent TMS-fMRI experiments. Yau JM, Hua J, Liao DA, Desmond JE. Neuroimage. 2013 Aug 1;76:134-44. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.02.077. Epub 2013 Mar 16. PMID: 23507384
  6. A meta-analysis of cerebellar contributions to higher cognition from PET and fMRI studies. E KH, Chen SH, Ho MH, Desmond JE. Hum Brain Mapp. 2014 Feb;35(2):593-615. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22194. Epub 2012 Nov 5. PMID: 23125108

Activities & Honors


  • Executive Committee, International Society for Behavioural Neuroscience, 1999 - 2001
  • Fellowship, MBL Neurobiology Course, 1982
  • Graduate Fellowship Award, National Science Foundation , 1978 - 1981
  • National Research Service Award (NIMH F31MH08951), 1983 - 1985
  • National Research Service Award (NIMH F32NS09628), 1994 - 1996


  • Institutional Administrative Appointments – Stanford University:
  • Institutional Administrative Appointments – Kennedy Krieger Institute:
  • Mental Retardation Research Center Neuroimaging Core
    Faculty Member
  • Mental Retardation Research Center Neuroimaging Core, 2005
    Faculty Member
  • Radiology Research Committee, 2001 - 2005
  • Working Group on Neuroimaging Ethics, 2001 - 2005

Professional Activities

  • Ad Hoc Reviewer, NIH, 2002
  • Ad Hoc Reviewer, NSF, 2002
  • Cognition and Perception Study Section, NIH, 2006 - 2006
  • NIH Cognition, Language and Perception Fellowships Study Section, 2006
  • Reviewer, Special Emphasis Panel ZMH1-CRB-B (01) Neuroinformatics Tools, 2002
  • Reviewer, Wellcome Trust, 2002
  • Reviewer, Whitaker Foundation, 2002
  • Reviewer, Dana Foundation, 2006
  • Reviewer, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes, 2006
  • Reviewer, NIMH B/START, 2006

Patient Ratings & Comments

The Patient Rating score is an average of all responses to physician related questions on the national CG-CAHPS Medical Practice patient experience survey through Press Ganey. Responses are measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best score. Comments are also gathered from our CG-CAHPS Medical Practice Survey through Press Ganey and displayed in their entirety. Patients are de-identified for confidentiality and patient privacy.

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