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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Brian J. Nieman, PhD

Research Institute
Translational Medicine

Other Positions
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Level 2 Investigator

Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 309555
Fax: 647-837-5832
Email: brian.nieman@sickkids.ca
Alternate Contact: Katie Polanic
Alternate Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 309536
Alternate Fax: 647-837-5832
Alternate Email: katie.polanic@sickkids.ca

Brief Biography

Dr. Brian Nieman is currently a senior scientist at the Mouse Imaging Centre (MICe) at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and a Level 2 Investigator with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. He is appointed to the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. His current research focuses on development of mouse imaging technology and evaluating the impact of paediatric cancer treatment on development.

Dr. Nieman received his PhD in 2006 from the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, at which time he began work adapting magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods for the analysis of mouse models of human disease. From 2006 to 2009, he was a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Daniel H. Turnbull at the New York University School of Medicine. His post-doctoral work featured development of MR imaging methods for study of mouse development—including in utero imaging of late stage embryos—and cellular imaging for study of neural progenitor cell migrations during homeostasis and disease in the brain.

Research Interests

  • development of new 3D imaging strategies for characterizing mouse models
  • phenotyping in mouse disease models
  • study of brain development
  • treatment-related alterations in development

The Nieman Lab is focused on development and application of imaging technology to understand developmental changes that result from disease or treatment. Non-invasive imaging methods applicable in the laboratory and clinically are a priority, especially as related to cancer and development. Examples include:

Understanding Cognitive Late Effects After Cancer Treatment
Treatment of children’s cancers has improved substantially in recent decades, such that the most common childhood cancers are usually cured. With a growing survivor populations, side effects from the cancer treatments that appear months or years later—often called late effects—are apparent and have a detrimental impact on quality of life. Craniospinal radiation, an important part of treatment for childhood brain tumours, is particularly likely to result in impaired brain development, resulting in difficulties with learning and memory and long-term challenges in school. The Nieman Lab is using mouse models to probe the mechanism of radiation-induced impairments in brain development, using MRI to measure how brain growth is altered in mice with different genotypes.

In the aim of avoiding late effects, cancer treatments avoid radiation altogether whenever possible, often through use of intensive combination chemotherapy. These treatments are based on the administration of many different chemotherapy agents over a period of up to three years. Although this reduces the incidence and severity of late effects, many individuals are still affected. Here, the complexity of the treatment protocol, which includes ~10 or more chemotherapy agents, makes it very difficult to identify the cause of late effects. The Nieman Lab is using a mouse model to evaluate individual chemotherapy agents and their mechanism of action, determining which are most toxic to normal development and how. Comparison to patient outcomes are enabled by MRI measurements of brain structure, which can be performed similarly across species.

Development of MRI technology
At the Mouse Imaging Centre, Dr. Nieman and his colleauges develop tools and technologies to improve throughput, resolution, and specificity of 3D imaging to enhance our understanding of disease and development. In the context of MRI, they have recently installed new MRI systems enhancing signal-to-noise ratio and increasing image quality and throughput. In vivo images of the mouse brain can now be acquired at 60m resolution, four at a time. High-resolution ex vivo images (40m or better) can be run 16 at a time. Expansion of the hardware, pulse sequence, and imaging tools to enhance these capabilities is an important avenue of research. Further development of imaging tools providing cellular, functional and multi-contrast capabilities for MRI will broaden information available.

For more information, visit the Mouse Imaging Centre (MICe).


T. L. Spencer Noakes, R. M. Henkelman, B. J. Nieman. Partitioning k-space for cylindrical three-dimensional rapid acquisition with relaxation enhancement imaging in the mouse brain. NMR Biomed 30(11), 2017.

C. C. Heyn, J. Bishop, K. Duffin, W. Lee, J. Dazai, S. Spring, B. J. Nieman, J. G. Sled. Magnetic resonance thermometry of flowing blood. NMR Biomed 30(11), 2017.
E. van der Plas, R. J. Schachar, J. Hitzler, J. Crosbie, S. L. Guger, B. J. Spiegler, S. Ito, B. J. Nieman. Brain structure, working memory and response inhibition in childhood leukemia survivors. Brain Behav 7(2):e00621, 2016.

B. J. Nieman, A. E. de Guzman, L. M. Gazdzinski, J. P. Lerch, M. M. Chakravarty, J. Pipitone, D. Strother, C. Fryer, E. Bouffet, S. Laughlin, N. Laperriere, L. Riggs, J. Skocic, D. J. Mabbott. White and gray matter abnormalities after cranial radiation in children and mice. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 93(4):882-891, 2015.
A. E. de Guzman, L. M. Gazdzinski, R. J. Alsop, J. M. Stewart, D. A. Jaffray, C. S. Wong, B. J. Nieman. Treatment age, dose and sex determine neuroanatomical outcome in irradiated juvenile mice. Radiat Res. 183(5):541-9, 2015.

K. U. Szulc, J. P. Lerch, B. J. Nieman, B. B. Bartelle, M. Friedel, G. A. Suero-Abreu, C. Watson, A. L. Joyner, D. H. Turnbull.  4D MEMRI Atlas of Neonatal FVB/N Mouse Brain Development.  NeuroImage 118:49-62, 2015.

L. M. Gazdzinski, B. J. Nieman.  Cellular Imaging and Texture Analysis Distinguish Differences in Cellular Dynamic in Mouse Brain Tumors.  Magnetic Resonance in Medicine 71(4):1531-1541, 2014.  DOI 10.1002/mrm.24790  PMID 23661610

L. M. Gazdzinski, K. Cormier, F. G. Lu, J. P. Lerch, C. S. Wong, B. J. Nieman. Radiation-induced alterations in mouse brain development characterized by magnetic resonance imaging. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 84(5):e631-638, 2012.