Steven Nelson, PhD

Faculty Member, Department of Pediatrics

Steven Nelson

Contact Info

Office Address:
Clinical Behavioral Neuroscience
Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain
2025 E. River Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Mailing Address:
Clinical Behavioral Neuroscience
Department of Pediatrics
2025 E. River Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55414
7962A (Campus Delivery Code)

PhD, Neuroscience, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Post-Doctoral Training, Washington University, St. Louis, MO


Awards & Recognition

  • 35th Annual O'Leary Prize For "The most original and important accomplishment in neuroscience research by a predoctoral or postdoctoral fellow”, Washington University (2012)


Research Summary/Interests

My laboratory focuses on two lines of research. The first asks how practicing retrieval or testing on material enhances our ability to retain that material over the long term. Putting information aside that we want to learn and trying to recall that information from memory is one of the most effective ways to “study”. We use neuroimaging techniques, primarily functional MRI, to understand how the brain supports this phenomenon. Future research will focus on the development of these neural systems and abilities in school-aged children and adolescents. The ultimate goal is to better understand how children learn most optimally and use this research to inform educational practices. Secondly, we use functional connectivity MRI to map networks and areas in the brain to better understand how neural systems are organized at the individual level. One of the major goals of this line of research is to examine how these systems or connections within these systems change through learning. Applications of precision mapping approaches to brain stimulation, which can be used to treat disorders like depression, are also of significant interest.


  • Gordon, E.M. & Nelson, S.M. (2021). Three types of individual variation in brain networks revealed by single-subject functional connectivity analyses. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 40, 79-86.
  • Gordon, E.M., Laumann, T.O., Marek, S., Raut, R., Gratton, C., Newbold, D., Greene, D.J., Coalson, R.S., Snyder, A.Z., Schlaggar, B.L., Petersen, S.E., Dosenbach, N.U.F, Nelson, S.M. (2020). Default mode network streams for coupling to language and control systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(29):17308-17319.
  • Gordon, E.M., Scheibel, R., Zambrano-Vazquez, L., Jia-Richards, M., May, G.J., Meyer, E.C., Nelson, S.M. (2018). High-fidelity measures of whole-brain functional connectivity and white matter integrity mediate relationships between TBI and PTSD symptoms. Journal of Neurotrauma, 35(5):767-779.
  • Gordon, E.M.*, Laumann, T.O.*, Gilmore, A.W., Berg, J.J., Greene, D.J., Ortega, M., Nguyen, A., Hoyt-Drazen, C., Coalson, R.S., McDermott, K.B., Shimony, J.S., Snyder, A.Z., Schlaggar, B.L., Petersen, S.E.**, Nelson, S.M.**, Dosenbach, N.U.F.** (2017) Precision functional mapping of individual human brains. Neuron,95(4):791-807. *Equal contribution, **Equal contribution.
  • Gratton, C., Neta, M., Sun, H., Ploran, E.J., Schlaggar, B.L., Wheeler, M.E., Petersen, S.E., Nelson, S.M. (2017) Distinct stages of moment-to-moment processing in the cinguloopercular and frontoparietal networks. Cerebral Cortex, 27(3):2403-2417.
  • Nelson, S.M., Savalia, N.K, Fishell, A.K., Gilmore, A.W., Zou, F., Balota, D.A., McDermott, K.B. (2016) Default mode network deactivations predict age-dependent long-term memory performance in healthy young adults. Cerebral Cortex, 26(8):3379-89.
  • Gilmore, A.W., Nelson, S.M., McDermott, K.B. (2015) A parietal memory network identified by multiple MRI methods.Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(9):534-43.
  • Nelson, S.M., McDermott. K.B., Wig, G.S., Schlaggar, B.L., Petersen, S.E. (2013) The critical roles of localization and physiology for understanding parietal contributions to memory retrieval. The Neuroscientist, 19(6): 578-591.
  • Nelson, S.M., Arnold, K.M., Gilmore, A.W., McDermott, K.B. (2013) Neural signatures of test-potentiated learning in parietal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(29): 11754-11762.
  • Nelson, S.M., McDermott, K.B., Petersen, S.E. (2012) In favor of a fractionation view of ventral parietal cortex: Comment on Cabeza et al. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(8): 399-400.
  • Power, J.D., Cohen, A.L., Nelson, S.M., Wig, G.S., Barnes, K.A., Church, J.A., Vogel, A.C., Miezin, F.M., Schlaggar, B.L., Petersen, S.E. (2011) Functional network organization of the human brain. Neuron, 72(4): 665-678.
  • Nelson, S.M., Cohen, A.L., Power, J.D., Wig, G.S., Miezin, F.M., Wheeler, M.E., Velanova, K., Donaldson, D.I., Phillips, J.S., Schlaggar, B.L., Petersen, S.E. (2010) A parcellation scheme for human left lateral parietal cortex. Neuron, 67(1): 156-170.
  • Nelson, S.M., Dosenbach, N.U.F., Cohen, A.L., Wheeler, M.E., Schlaggar, B.L., Petersen, S.E. (2010) Role of the anterior insula in task-level control and focal attention. BrainStructure & Function, 214(5-6): 669-680.
  • Ploran, E.J.*, Nelson, S.M.*, Velanova, K., Donaldson, D.I., Petersen, S.E., Wheeler, M.E. (2007) Evidence accumulation and the moment of recognition: Dissociating decision processes using fMRI. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(44): 11912-11924.

*Equal contribution first author.