Allahyar Kangarlu, PhD

Profile Headshot


Allahyar Kangarlu is the Director of the physics and engineering group at NYSPI MRI research center at Columbia University in New York City. He is also an associate professor of neurobiology at the department of Psychiatry and a senior physicist with the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI).

Allahyar was trained in experimental physics with emphasis on spectroscopy. His research is concentrated on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and its affiliated technology and its application in medicine. He is responsible for development of new imaging, spectroscopic and functional techniques which are carried out in MRI at this department.

NYSPI owns a GE 3T MR750 MRI/S scanner for which Alayar and his team develop specialized radio frequency (RF) coils and pulse sequences to help scientists to explore their neurosciences ideas in the human brain. The role of MRI in unraveling mysteries of brain is well established and in this regard Columbia Psychiatry is a frontier in the use of this tool in research in etiology of neuropsychiatric diseases. Alayar and his colleagues are improving the imaging tools for brain research to further expand potentials of NMR in unraveling the inner working of the human brain and mechanism of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology (in Psychiatry)

Administrative Titles

  • Director, MRI Physics

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • MS, 1985 University of Missouri
  • PhD, 1987 University of Missouri


We are interested in enhancing capabilities of MRI in accessing cellular level information about the structure and function of human brain. For example, while within the cerebral cortex, sulci and gyri constitute the most identifiable anatomical landmarks, functional organization of the cortex is not yet accessible. The MRI-visible structural units within the cortex, which are function-related are the cortical areas and subcortical nuclei. The spatial resolution of MRI is sufficient to visualize these structures. The depiction of internal structure and interfaces of these units, however, requires much higher resolution. To enable MRI to characterize brain structure and function more precisely requires more technological advancement in information encoding (pusle sequences) and detection (RF coils). Our past high-resolution images indicate that the opportunity exists to enhance the sharpness of areal and nuclear borders to acquire microscopic cytoarchitectonic MRI maps in-vivo non-invasively. Considering that high susceptibility will amplify both physical representation and hemodynamic representation of microscopic vessels, we are interested in developing techniques to exploit this effect to offer more direct access to neural activity (fMRI). We are interested in using this aspect of high magnetic field to sensitize MRI to neurochemical activities.

Physics and engineering techniques are used to develop radio frequency (RF) coils to enhance the sensitivity of MRI in obtaining more accurate information from the human brain. Every MRI technique including high resolution anatomical, fMRI, DTI, spectroscopy, and perfusion are used to study the brain both in normal state and stimulated state. Minute variation in the brain of patients with psychiatric disorders as a response to our imaging techniques are analyzed to extract information about the inner structure and function of the brain. In addition, pulse sequences are developed to enable us to better detect metabolites, response to motor/sensory or cognitive tasks, and neuronal tracks.

Selected Publications

  • Landa A, Wang Z, Russell JA, Posner J, Duan Y, Kangarlu A, Huo Y, Fallon BA, Peterson BS.: Distinct neural circuits subserve interpersonal and non-interpersonal emotions.. Soc Neurosci. 2013;8: 474-88
  • Colibazzi T, Posner J, Wang Z, Gorman D, Gerber A, Yu S, Zhu H, Kangarlu A, Duan Y, Russell JA, Peterson BS.: Neural systems subserving valence and arousal during the experience of induced emotions.. Emotion 2010;10: 377-89
  • Liu F, Garland M, Duan Y, Stark RI, Xu D, Bansal R, Dong Z, Peterson BS, Kangarlu A.: Techniques for in utero, longitudinal MRI of fetal brain development in baboons at 3T.. J Magn Reson Imaging 2009;29: 13-22
  • Kangarlu A.: High-field magnetic resonance imaging. Neuroimaging Clin N America 2009;19: 113-28
  • Posner J, Russell JA, Gerber A, Gorman D, Colibazzi T, Yu S, Wang Z, Kangarlu A, Zhu H, Peterson BS.: The neurophysiological bases of emotion: An fMRI study of the affective circumplex using emotion-denoting words. Hum Brain Mapp. 2009;30: 883-95