Aron K Barbey

Aron K. Barbey


Aron K. Barbey is Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He directs the Center for Brain Plasticity, the Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity Initiative, and the Decision Neuroscience Laboratory at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. He received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Emory University in 2007 and completed a research fellowship in Cognitive Neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health in 2011. Professor Barbey’s research investigates the neural foundations of human intelligence and decision making, with particular emphasis on enhancing these functions through cognitive neuroscience, physical fitness, and nutritional intervention. He has won more than $25 million in private and federal research grants since joining the University of Illinois in 2011, receiving support from the NIH BRAIN Initiative, the research division of the United States Director of National Intelligence (IARPA), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and Abbott Nutrition. He has received multiple academic achievement awards and serves on the editorial board of Intelligence, Thinking & Reasoning, and NeuroImage.

Neal Cohen

Neal Cohen


Neal J. Cohen is the Associate Director of the Center for Brain Plasticity, and Professor in the Department of Psychology, the Neuroscience Program, and the Beckman Institute, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He serves as (founding) Director of the Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory (CNLM), a public-private partnership between the University of Illinois and Abbott Laboratories that is the nation’s first nutritional neuroscience research center, in addition to his role as (founding) Director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute (IHSI), supporting efforts to catalyze, facilitate, enhance, and coordinate Health Sciences-related research activities at Illinois. Dr. Cohen’s work on the cognitive neuroscience of memory has been instrumental in the discovery and characterization of multiple memory systems of the brain, and has advanced the development of novel methods and paradigms for assessing memory in various populations and in interventions aimed at improving memory and cognition. Dr. Cohen is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science.


Ryan Larsen

Ryan J. Larsen is a Senior Scientist with the Center for Brain Plasticity. Dr. Larsen’s research uses a variety of MRI techniques to study the physical correlates of cognitive performance, and how they relate to nutrition, cardiorespiratory fitness, and body composition. His research covers the human lifespan, including infants, children, young adults, and older adults. He has played a leading role in the design, execution, analysis, and interpretation of MRI studies and clinical trials at the University of Illinois, Boston Children’s Hospital, the University of East Anglia, and Swinburne University. Dr. Larsen also develops new methods for MRI collection and analysis, and has made contributions to the quantification of MR Spectroscopy data, MR Fingerprinting, and sodium MRI. Dr. Larsen holds a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University.


Kelsey Hassevoort


Kelsey is a postdoctoral research associate with the Center for Brain Plasticity. She earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Illinois in 2018 and has cultivated an interdiscplinary program of research that investigates the relationship between physical health factors- including aerobic fitness, body composition, and nutrition- and hippocampal function throughout the lifespan. To explore these relationships, she utilizes multiple methods, including behavioral, eye-tracking, physiological, and structural neuroimaging techniques.

gillian snyder

Gillian Snyder


As a research development manager, Dr. Gillian Snyder works closely with faculty and administration to identify, expand and support new research initiatives in brain plasticity. She coordinates new multi-disciplinary, multi-investigator proposals and works to build the research capacity of the brain plasticity research communities. This translates into her working proactively with faculty members to identify funding opportunities and develop multi-year strategies for successful grant acquisition; assisting with creating and coordinating large center-type proposals; and assisting with managing large center-type projects, especially as it pertains to gathering data. She also serves as the Center for Brain Plasticity liaison for neuroscience-related projects to external partners and organizations, including Carle Foundation Hospital.


Hannah Wirth


Hannah Wirth is an office administrator with the Center for Brain Plasticity and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology. She provides administrative and financial management support for the directors of the Center for Brain Plasticity and other staff members. Hannah is currently a member of the Illinois Administrative Professionals. She is a Certified Administrative Professional and holds a degree in Business Administrative Technology from Parkland College.