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Rocky Mountain MIRECC - Melissa Lopez-Larson MD

Updated: 17 March 2015

Biography and Contact

Melissa Lopez-Larson, MDMelissa Lopez-Larson, MD 
Title: Physician
801.582.1565 ext. 2763
Dr. Lopez-Larson is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine and an Assistant Investigator at the Brain Institute at the University of Utah. Dr. Lopez-Larson received her MD from the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine and is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. She performed her adult and child psychiatry training at Harvard Medical School training sites including Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital and Cambridge Hospital, respectively.
At the Rocky Mountain MIRECC, she is the director of the suicide consultation service. Her research area is on brain development in healthy youths and in youths with psychiatric illness with a specific focus on the identification of risk factors for psychiatric illness. She is researching the effects of brain maturation on brain networks believed to be involved in mood regulation in healthy children and in individuals with bipolar disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder utilizing multimodal neuroimaging techniques.

Recent Publications

Anderson, J. S., Dhatt, H., Ferguson, M. A., Lopez-Larson, M., Schrock, L., House, P., Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2011). Functional connectivity targeting for deep brain stimulation in essential tremor. American Journal of Neuroradiology.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Deep brain stimulation of the thalamus has become a valuable treatment for medication-refractory essential tremor, but current targeting provides only a limited ability to account for individual anatomic variability. We examined whether functional connectivity measurements among the motor cortex, superior cerebellum, and thalamus would allow discrimination of precise targets useful for image guidance of neurostimulator placement. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Resting BOLD images (8 minutes) were obtained in 58 healthy adolescent and adult volunteers. Regions of interest were identified from an anatomic atlas and a finger movement task in each subject in the primary motor cortex and motor activation region of the bilateral superior cerebellum. Correlation was measured in the time series of each thalamic voxel with the 4 seeds. An analogous procedure was performed on a single subject imaged for 10 hours to constrain the time needed for single-subject optimization of thalamic targets. RESULTS: Mean connectivity images from 58 subjects showed precisely localized targets within the expected location of the ventral intermediate nucleus of the thalamus, within a single voxel of currently used deep brain stimulation anatomic targets. These targets could be mapped with single-voxel accuracy in a single subject with 3 hours of imaging time, though targets were reproduced in different locations for the individual than for the group averages. CONCLUSIONS: Interindividual variability likely exists in optimal placement for thalamic deep brain stimulation targeting of the cerebellar thalamus for essential tremor. Individualized thalamic targets can be precisely estimated for image guidance with sufficient imaging time.
Keywords: Brain & Biology
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Anderson, J. S., Druzgal, T. J., Lopez-Larson, M. P., Jeong, E. K., Desai, K., Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2011). Network anticorrelations, global regression, and phase-shifted soft tissue correction. Human Brain Mapping, 32(6), 919-934.
Synchronized low-frequency BOLD fluctuations are observed in dissociable large-scale, distributed networks with functional specialization. Two such networks, referred to as the task-positive network (TPN) and the task-negative network (TNN) because they tend to be active or inactive during cognitively demanding tasks, show reproducible anticorrelation of resting BOLD fluctuations after removal of the global brain signal. Because global signal regression mandates that anticorrelated regions to a given seed region must exist, it is unclear whether such anticorrelations are an artifact of global regression or an intrinsic property of neural activity. In this study, we demonstrate from simulated data that spurious anticorrelations are introduced during global regression for any two networks as a linear function of their size. Using actual resting state data, we also show that both the TPN and TNN become anticorrelated with the orbits when soft tissues are included in the global regression algorithm. Finally, we propose a technique using phase-shifted soft tissue regression (PSTCor) that allows improved correction of global physiological artifacts without global regression that shows improved anatomic specificity to global regression but does not show significant network anticorrelations. These results imply that observed anticorrelations between TNN and TPN may be largely or entirely artifactual in the resting state. These results also imply that differences in network anticorrelations attributed to pathophysiological or behavioral states may be due to differences in network size or recruitment rather than actual anticorrelations.
Keywords: Brain & Biology
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Anderson, J. S., Ferguson, M. A., Lopez-Larson, M., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2010). Topographic maps of multisensory attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 107(46), 20110-20114.
The intraparietal sulcus (IPS) region is uniquely situated at the intersection of visual, somatosensory, and auditory association cortices, ideally located for processing of multisensory attention. We examined the internal architecture of the IPS region and its connectivity to other regions in the dorsal attention and cinguloinsular networks using maximal connectivity clustering. We show with resting state fMRI data from 58 healthy adolescent and young adult volunteers that points of maximal connectivity between the IPS and other regions in the dorsal attention and cinguloinsular networks are topographically organized, with at least seven maps of the IPS region in each hemisphere. Distinct clusters of the IPS exhibited differential connectivity to auditory, visual, somatosensory, and default mode networks, suggesting local specialization within the IPS region for different sensory modalities. In an independent task activation paradigm with 16 subjects, attention to different sensory modalities showed similar functional specialization within the left intraparietal sulcus region. The default mode network, in contrast, did not show a topographical relationship between regions in the network, but rather maximal connectivity in each region to a single central cluster of the other regions. The topographical architecture of multisensory attention may represent a mechanism for specificity in top-down control of attention from dorsolateral prefrontal and lateral orbitofrontal cortex and may represent an organizational unit for multisensory representations in the brain.
Keywords: Brain & Biology
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Anderson, J. S., Ferguson, M. A., Lopez-Larson, M., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2011). Reproducibility of single-subject functional connectivity measurements. American Journal of Neuroradiology, 32(3), 548-555.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Measurements of resting-state functional connectivity have increasingly been used for characterization of neuropathologic and neurodevelopmental populations. We collected data to characterize how much imaging time is necessary to obtain reproducible quantitative functional connectivity measurements needed for a reliable single-subject diagnostic test. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We obtained 100 five-minute BOLD scans on a single subject, divided into 10 sessions of 10 scans each, with the subject at rest or while watching video clips of cartoons. These data were compared with resting-state BOLD scans from 36 healthy control subjects by evaluating the correlation between each pair of 64 small spheric regions of interest obtained from a published functional brain parcellation. RESULTS: Single-subject and group data converged to reliable estimates of individual and population connectivity values proportional to 1 / sqrt(n). Dramatic improvements in reliability were seen by using ≤25 minutes of imaging time, with smaller improvements for additional time. Functional connectivity "fingerprints" for the individual and population began diverging at approximately 15 minutes of imaging time, with increasing reliability even at 4 hours of imaging time. Twenty-five minutes of BOLD imaging time was required before any individual connections could reliably discriminate an individual from a group of healthy control subjects. A classifier discriminating scans during which our subject was resting or watching cartoons was 95% accurate at 10 minutes and 100% accurate at 15 minutes of imaging time. CONCLUSIONS: An individual subject and control population converged to reliable different functional connectivity profiles that were task-modulated and could be discriminated with sufficient imaging time.
Keywords: Brain & Biology
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Lopez-Larson, M. P., Anderson, J. S., Ferguson, M. A., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2011). Local brain connectivity and associations with gender and age. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience,1(2), 187-197.
Regional homogeneity measures synchrony of resting-state brain activity in neighboring voxels, or local connectivity. The effects of age and gender on local connectivity in healthy subjects are unknown. We performed regional homogeneity analyses on resting state BOLD time series data acquired from 58 normal, healthy participants, ranging in age from 11 to 35 (mean 18.1 ± 5.0 years, 32 males). Regional homogeneity was found to be highest for gray matter, with brain regions within the default mode network having the highest local connectivity values. There was a general decrease in regional homogeneity with age with the greatest reduction seen in the anterior cingulate and temporal lobe. Greater female local connectivity in the right hippocampus and amygdala was also noted, regardless of age. These findings suggest that local connectivity at the millimeter scale decreases during development as longer connections are formed, and underscores the importance of examining gender differences in imaging studies of healthy and clinical populations.
Keywords: Brain & Biology
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Lopez-Larson, M. P., Bogorodzki, P., Rogowska, J., McGlade, E., King, J. B., Terry, J., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2011). Altered prefrontal and insular cortical thickness in adolescent marijuana users. Behavioral Brain Research, 220(1), 164-172.
INTRODUCTION: There are limited data regarding the impact of marijuana (MJ) on cortical development during adolescence. Adolescence is a period of substantial brain maturation and cortical thickness abnormalities may be indicative of disruptions of normal cortical development. This investigation applied cortical-surface based techniques to compare cortical thickness measures in MJ using adolescents compared to non-using controls. METHODS: Eighteen adolescents with heavy MJ use and 18 non-using controls similar in age received MRI scans using a 3T Siemens scanner. Cortical reconstruction and volumetric segmentation was performed with FreeSurfer. Group differences in cortical thickness were assessed using statistical difference maps covarying for age and gender. RESULTS: Compared to non-users, MJ users had decreased cortical thickness in right caudal middle frontal, bilateral insula and bilateral superior frontal cortices. Marijuana users had increased cortical thickness in the bilateral lingual, right superior temporal, right inferior parietal and left paracentral regions. In the MJ users, negative correlations were found between frontal and lingual regions for urinary cannabinoid levels and between age of onset of use and the right superior frontal gyrus. CONCLUSION: This is one of the first studies to evaluate cortical thickness in a group of adolescents with heavy MJ use compared to non-users. Our findings are consistent with prior studies that documented abnormalities in prefrontal and insular regions. Our results suggest that age of regular use may be associated with altered prefrontal cortical gray matter development in adolescents. Furthermore, reduced insular cortical thickness may be a biological marker for increased risk of substance dependence.
Keywords: Brain & Biology, Substance Use Disorders (SUD)
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Lopez-Larson, M. P., Breeze, J. A., Kennedy, D. N., Hodge, S. M., Tang, L., Moore, C. et al. (2010). Age-related changes in the corpus callosum in early-onset bipolar disorder assessed using volumetric and cross-sectional measurements. Brain Imaging and Behavior, 4(3-4), 220-231.
Corpus callosum (CC) area abnormalities have been reported in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of adults and youths with bipolar disorder (BPD), suggesting interhemispheric communication may be abnormal in BPD and may be present early in the course of illness and affect normal neuromaturation of this structure throughout the lifecycle. Neuroimaging scans from 44 youths with DSM-IV BPD and 22 healthy controls (HC) were analyzed using cross-sectional area measurements and a novel method of volumetric parcellation. Univariate analyses of variance were conducted on CC subregions using both volume and traditional area measurements. Youths with BPD had smaller middle and posterior callosal regions, and reduced typical age-related increases in CC size. The cross-sectional area and novel volumetric methodologies resulted in similar findings. Future longitudinal assessments of CC development would track the evolution of callosal abnormalities in youths with BPD and allow exploration of the functional significance of these findings.
Keywords: Brain & Biology, Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI)
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Terry, J., Lopez-Larson, M., & Frazier, J. A. (2009). Magnetic resonance imaging studies in early onset bipolar disorder: An updated review. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 18, 421-439.
Over the past 5-10 years, advances in neuroimaging methods and study designs have begun to appear in the literature of early-onset bipolar disorder (onset before 18 years of age). This article contains an updated review of the literature regarding neuroimaging in youths with bipolar disorder (BPD), highlighting important new study designs and techniques. Overall, structural, functional (fMRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) report consistent abnormalities in regions of the frontal lobe and limbic structures. Functional MRI and MRS studies also frequently report striatal and thalamic abnormalities in early-onset BPD. Future neuroimaging studies in youths with BPD should include longitudinal studies incorporating multimodal neuroimaging techniques.
Keywords: Brain & Biology
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Yurgelun-Todd, D.A., Bueler, C. E., McGlade, E., Churchwell, J., Brenner, L.A., & Lopez-Larson, M. (2011). Neuroimaging correlates of traumatic brain injury and suicidal behavior. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 26(4), 276-289.
INTRODUCTION: There is an urgent need to define the neurobiological and cognitive underpinnings of suicidal ideation and behavior in veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Separate studies implicate frontal white matter systems in the pathophysiology of TBI, suicidality, and impulsivity. We examined the relationship between the integrity of major frontal white matter (WM) systems on measures of impulsivity and suicidality in veterans with TBI. METHODS: Fifteen male veterans with TBI and 17 matched healthy controls (HC) received clinical ratings, measures of impulsivity and MRI scans on a 3T magnet. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data for the genu and cingulum were analyzed using Freesurfer and FSL. Correlations were performed for fractional anisotropy (FA) (DTI) values and measures of suicidality and impulsivity for veterans with TBI. RESULTS: Significantly decreased in FA values in the left cingulum (P = 0.02), and left (P = 0.02) and total genu (P = 0.01) were observed in the TBI group relative to controls. Measures of impulsivity were significantly greater for the TBI group and total and right cingulum FA positively correlated with current suicidal ideation and measures of impulsivity (P <0.03). CONCLUSION: These data demonstrate a significant reduction in FA in frontal WM tracts in veterans with mild TBI that was associated with both impulsivity and suicidality. These findings may reflect a neurobiological vulnerability to suicidal risk related to white matter microstructure.
Keywords: Brain & Biology, Suicide Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
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