Paul Thompson, Ph.D.

ENIGMA, Big Data & the Human Brain: Imaging and Genomics of Brain Diseases in 70,000 Individuals from 35 Countries

Paul Thompson, Ph.D., directs the ENIGMA Center for Worldwide Medicine, Imaging & Genomics – a U.S. National Center of Excellence for “Big Data” analysis in biomedical research. Since 2009, Dr Thompson has led the ENIGMA consortium (, a worldwide medical network of 340 institutions across 35 countries studying the major diseases of the brain, with MRI, diffusion MRI, resting state fMRI, EEG and genomics. ENIGMA has published the largest neuroimaging studies of 8 major brain disorders – including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, ADHD and OCD – and leads international studies of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, PTSD, anorexia, substance use, and anxiety disorders. In ENIGMA’s series of papers in Nature, Nature Neuroscience, and Nature Communications, 340 institutions pooled DNA and MRI data from over 40,000 people to identify over 100 genomic loci that influence brain structure, function and disease risk using massively-parallel distributed “big data” computing (Medland Nature Neuroscience 2015). ENIGMA analyzes factors that affect Alzheimer’s disease progression, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar illness, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, autism, and childhood brain disorders.

Dr. Thompson’s group created the first MRI maps of Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia spreading in the living brain, and a method to detect brain growth in children (published in the journal Nature). Thompson directs the Imaging Genetics Center and is Associate Director of USC’s new Stevens Institute for Neuroimaging and Informatics. At USC, he is a Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, Radiology, Pediatrics, Engineering, and Ophthalmology. Dr. Thompson obtained his M.A. in Mathematics and Greek & Latin Languages from Oxford University, England, and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA. His team of 20 researchers includes students in neuroscience, genetics, biomedical engineering, and biomedical physics. Collaborating with over 300 imaging labs around the world, Dr. Thompson’s 1,600 published research papers combine the talents of researchers in mathematics, neuroimaging, and clinical neurology (see