Tony Wilson, Ph.D.

Tony Wilson, Ph.D.Associate Professor - Department of Neurological Sciences
Scientific Director - Center for Magnetoencephalography (MEG)

Academic Office:
988422 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-8422
Phone: 402-559-6444
Fax: 402-559-5747

Midwestern State University, B.S., Psychology & Biology (2001 – Summa cum laude)
University of Minnesota, Ph.D., Cognitive Neuroscience (2005)
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Post-doctoral Fellowship, Cognitive Neuroscience (2005-2007) 

Hospital Appointments:


Aging and health factors that can accelerate aging (e.g., diabetes, severe infections, drug and alcohol abuse); attention; working memory; typical development; brain oscillations; temporal dynamics; pharmaco-MEG; dynamic functional connectivity; HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND); transcranial electrical stimulation (tES)

Current Research Projects:

Dr. Wilson's laboratory utilizes advanced functional and structural neuroimaging to understand how electrical activity in large-scale human brain networks gives rise to normal and aberrant cognitive processes.  Specifically, the team uses magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure the dynamics of brain function in real time, and combines high-resolution structural MRI with computational neuroanatomical techniques to quantify the thickness of cortical gray matter in healthy children and adults, as well as those with neurological and/or psychiatric disorders.  Beyond MEG and structural MRI, the team also uses functional MRI, diffusion-weighted imaging, and noninvasive brain stimulation methods to address emerging questions in basic and translational neuroscience.

Dr. Wilson's laboratory is currently funded by grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the American Heart Association (AHA), and private foundations.

Current projects include:

- A longitudinal study of healthy and pathological aging in healthy adults and those with cognitive impairments subsequent to HIV-infection.  In this work, the team is studying how the brain networks serving attention and working memory change as a function of aging, and whether early signs of impairment can be discerned in the function or structure of the brain.  The team is also evaluating sex differences among these variables, and how one's molecular age is reflected in the structure and function of their brain.

- The developmental trajectory of healthy brain development in 9-14 year-old children.  This study evaluates how the cortex and white matter pathways maturate as children grow into adolescents, and examines how specific genetic markers impact this maturation.  A particular focus of the study is on neuronal dynamics and how connectivity in specific brain networks changes during the transition from childhood to adolescence.

- An investigation of how type 1 diabetes (T1D) affects cognitive and neural function across the life span.  The main goals of this project are to quantify the impact of glycemic dysregulation and disease duration on brain and cognitive health in patients with T1D who are otherwise healthy (i.e., free of heart disease and obesity).

- A study identifying the underlying mechanisms of an emerging type of noninvasive electrical brain stimulation.  This work currently focuses on healthy young adults and aims to determine the neurophysiological bases of enhanced and degraded cognitive function following stimulation of specific brain areas.

- A translational study of how chronic heart failure (CHF) and dyspnea (breathlessness) affects brain function and cerebral blood flow in older adults (with and without CHF).  The underlying molecular mechanisms of these alterations are then probed in rats with CHF (with Dr. Harold Schultz).

- The impact of chronic marijuana use on the aging process.  This study identifies whether heavy marijuana use accelerates cognitive and neural aging using MEG, structural/functional MRI, and neurobehavioral methods.

The Wilson laboratory is highly collaborative and involved in several ongoing studies that are based in other laboratories at UNMC, University of Nebraska-Omaha, Creighton University, Boys Town National Research Hospital, the Mind Research Network, Tulane University, and beyond.

Recent Publications                                                                           *=Mentored Student/Fellow

  1. Wilson TW, McDermott TJ, Mills MS, Coolidge NM, Heinrichs-Graham E. (in press). tDCS modulates visual gamma oscillations and basal alpha activity in occipital cortices: Evidence from MEG. Cerebral Cortex.
  2. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Santamaria PM, Gendelman HE, Wilson TW. (in press). The cortical signature of symptom laterality in Parkinson's disease. Neuroimage: Clinical.
  3. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Kurz MJ, Gehringer JE, Wilson TW. (in press). The functional role of post-movement beta oscillations in motor termination. Brain Structure & Function.
  4. Khanna MM, Badura-Brack AS, McDermott TJ, Embury CM, Wiesman AI, Shepherd A, Ryan TJ, Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (in press). Veterans with PTSD exhibit altered emotional processing and attentional control during an emotional Stroop task. Psychological Medicine.
  5. *Heinrichs-Graham E, McDermott TJ, Mills MS, Coolidge NM, Wilson TW. (in press).  Transcranial direct-current stimulation modulates offline visual oscillatory activity: A magnetoencephalography study. Cortex, 2016 Dec 7. [Epub ahead of print]. PMC: In Process
  6. *Wiesman AI, Heinrichs-Graham E, Coolidge N, Gehringer J, Kurz MJ, Wilson TW. (in press). Oscillatory dynamics and functional connectivity during gating of primary somatosensory responses. Journal of Physiology, 2016 Oct 25. doi: 10.1113/JP273192. [Epub ahead of print]. PMC: In Process
  7. Wilson TW, Proskovec AL, Heinrichs-Graham E, O'Neill J, Robertson KR, Fox HS, Swindells S. (in press). Aberrant neuronal dynamics during working memory operations in the aging HIV-infected brain. Scientific Reports, 2017 Feb 3. [Epub ahead of print]. PMC: In Process
  8. Wilson TW. (2017). Does exposure to persistent maternal depression alter the developing brain's empathetic circuitry. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 56:8-9. PMC: In Process
  9. *McDermott TJ, Badura-Brack AS, Becker HM, Ryan TJ, Bar-Haim Y, Pine DS, Khanna MM, Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2016). Attention training improves aberrant neural dynamics during working memory processing in veterans with PTSD. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 16:1140-1149. PMC: 5154910
  10. *Kurz MJ, Proskovec AL, Gehringer JE, Becker KM, Arpin DJ, Heinrichs-Braham E, Wilson TW. (2016). Developmental trajectory of beta cortical oscillatory activity during a knee motor task. Brain Topography, 29:824-833. PMC: In Process
  11. *Wiesman AI, Heinrichs-Graham E, McDermott TJ, Santamaria P, Gendelman HE, Wilson TW. (2016). Quiet connections: Reduced frontotemporal connectivity in nondemented Parkinson's disease during working memory encoding. Human Brain Mapping, 37:3224-3235. PMC: 4980162
  12. Wilson TW, Heinrichs-Graham E, Proskovec AL, McDermott TJ. (2016). Neuroimaging with magnetoencephalography: A dynamic view of brain pathophysiology. Translational Research, 175:17-36. PMC: 4959997
  13. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2016). Is an absolute level of cortical beta suppression required for proper movement? Magnetoencephalographic evidence from healthy aging. Neuroimage, 134:514-521. PMC: 4912897
  14. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Arpin DJ, Wilson TW. (2016). Cue-related temporal factors modulate movement-related beta oscillations in the human motor circuit. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28:1039-1051. PMC: 4887290
  15. *Proskovec AL, Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2016). Aging modulates the oscillatory dynamics underlying successful working memory encoding and maintenance. Human Brain Mapping, 37:2348-2361. PMC: 4867257
  16. *McDermott TJ, Badura-Brack AS, Becker KM, Ryan TJ, Khanna MM, Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2016). Male veterans with PTSD exhibit aberrant neural dynamics during working memory encoding: A MEG study. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 41:251-260. PMC: 4915934
  17. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2015). Coding complexity in the human motor circuit. Human Brain Mapping,36:5155-5167.PMC: 4715608
  18. Khanna MM, Badura-Brack AS, McDermott TJ, Shepherd A, Heinrichs-Graham E, Pine DS, Bar-Haim Y, Wilson TW. (in press). Attention training normalizes combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder effects on emotional Stroop performance using lexically matched word lists. Cognition & Emotion, 2016 Aug 26. [Epub ahead of print]. PMC: 5177534
  19. Badura-Brack AS, Becker KM, McDermott TJ, Ryan TJ, Becker MM, Hearley AR, Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2015). Decreased somatosensory activity to non-threatening touch in combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 233:194-200. PMID: 26184460
  20. Wilson TW, Heinrichs-Graham E, Becker KM, Aloi J, Robertson KR, Sandkovsky U, White ML, O'Neill J, Knott NL, Fox HS, Swindells S. (2015). Multimodal neuroimaging evidence of alterations in cortical structure and function in HIV-infected older adults. Human Brain Mapping,36:897-910.PMC: 4491915
  21. Kurz MJ, Becker KM, Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2015). Children with cerebral palsy have uncharacteristic somatosensory cortical oscillations after mechanoreceptor stimulation. Neuroscience, 305:67-75. PMC: 4558219
  22. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2015). Spatiotemporal oscillatory dynamics of the encoding and maintenance phases of a visual working memory task. Cortex, 69:121-130. PMC: 4522359
  23. Kurz MJ, Becker KM, Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2015). The magnitude of somatosensory cortical activity is related to the mobility and strength impairments seen in children with cerebral palsy. Journal of Neurophysiology, 113:3143-3150. PMC: 4432676
  24. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW, Santamaria PM, Heithoff SK, Torres-Russotto D, Hutter-Saunders JA, Estes KA, Meza JL, Mosley RL, Gendelman HE. (2014). Neuromagnetic evidence of abnormal movement-related beta desynchronization in Parkinson's disease. Cerebral Cortex, 24:2667-2678. PMC: 4153806 = Corresponding Author
  25. Wilson TW, Heinrichs-Graham E, Becker KM. (2014). Circadian modulation of motor-related beta oscillatory responses. Neuroimage, 102:531-539. PMC: 4252760
  26. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Kurz MJ, Becker KM, Santamaria PM, Gendelman HE, Wilson TW. (2014). Hyper-synchrony despite pathologically-reduced beta oscillations in patients with Parkinson's disease: A pharmaco-magnetoencephalography study. Journal of Neurophysiology, 112:1739-1747. PMC: 4157173.
  27. Kurz MJ, Becker KM, Heinrichs-Graham E, Wilson TW. (2014). Neurophysiological abnormalities in the sensorimotor cortices during the motor planning and movement execution stages of children with cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 556:1072-1077. PMC: 4194152
  28. Kurz MJ, Heinrichs-Graham E, Arpin DJ, Becker KM, Wilson TW. (2014). Aberrant synchrony in the somatosensory cortices predicts motor performance errors in children with cerebral palsy. Journal of Neurophysiology, 111(3):573-579. PMC: 3921401
  29. *Heinrichs-Graham E, Franzen JD, Knott NL, White ML, Wetzel MW, Wilson TW. (2014). Pharmaco-MEG evidence for attention related hyper-connectivity between auditory and prefrontal cortices in ADHD. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 221:240-245. PMC: 4010384
  30. Kurz MJ, Wilson TW, Arpin DJ. (2014). An fNIRS exploratory investigation of the cortical activity during gait in children with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. Brain & Development, 36:870-877. PMC: 4122656
  31. Wilson TW, Kurz MJ, Arpin DJ. (2014). Functional specialization within the supplementary motor area: A fNIRS study of bimanual coordination. NeuroImage, 85:445-450. PMC: 3838451

Current Funding

R01 MH103220-01A1, Wilson (PI)                                                                 08/01/2014 – 05/31/2019
“Neurophysiological markers of HAND and the impact of aging: Evidence from MEG”
Role: Principal Investigator
This award uses MEG, functional MRI, structural MRI, and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to evaluate the neural mechanisms of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND), which affect between 35-70% of all HIV-infected patients. A longitudinal component of the study will evaluate how HIV-infection differentially modulates the decline in cognitive and neural function that is associated with normal healthy aging.

R01 MH103220-02S1, Wilson (PI)                                                                 08/01/2015 – 05/31/2019
Administrative Supplement: Sex differences in aging and the neurophysiological markers of HAND”
Role: Principal Investigator
This administrative supplement supports the recruitment of 60 additional women (30 HIV-infected and 30 healthy women), which pushes total enrollment in the parent project to approximately 250 participants. This increased sample size will enable adequately-powered statistical testing for sex differences in healthy aging, and the accelerated aging that is often associated with HIV-infection and HAND, among other conditions.

R01 MH103220-02S2, Wilson (PI)                                                                  08/01/2015 – 05/31/2019
Administrative Supplement: Linking molecular markers of aging, the epigenome, and functional neuroimaging”
Role: Principal Investigator
This administrative supplement supports epigenetic analyses, including DNA methylation, on all participants (patients and controls) who were enrolled in the parent R01 and S1 projects. We will extract molecular markers of aging and assess how these metrics coalesce with indices of brain structure and function in healthy and HIV-infected participants ranging from 22 to 76 years-old. Other epigenetic analyses will also be conducted.

NSF #1539067, Calhoun, Stephen, Wang, & Wilson (Co-PIs)                      08/01/2015 – 07/31/2019
National Science Foundation (NSF)
“Developmental Chronnecto-Genomics (Dev-CoG): A Next Generation Framework for Quantifying Brain
Dynamics and Related Genetic Factors in Childhood”
Role: Co-Principal Investigator
This award supports a longitudinal study of structural and functional brain development in typically-developing 9-14 year-old participants, as well as a multi-institutional training program in computational and cognitive neuroscience. Genetic data, structural MRI, functional MRI, diffusion MRI, and MEG will be collected annually on about 225 youth at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (PI: Wilson) and the Mind Research Network in New Mexico (PI: Calhoun/Stephen). Multimodal imaging and genetic data will be processed using advanced network modeling approaches developed through the project, which are also a key aspect of the training mission.   

Shoemaker Prize for Neurodegenerative Research, Wilson (PI)                  07/01/2015 – 06/30/2017
University of Nebraska Foundation
“Using noninvasive brain stimulation to normalize neural networks and reduce cognitive impairment in humans”
Role: Principal Investigator
With this award, we will investigate whether high-definition transcranial direct-current stimulation (HD-tDCS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex significantly improves cognitive performance and normalizes brain function in critical networks of cognitively-impaired HIV-infected patients (i.e., those with HAND).

R01 HD086245-01, Kurz (PI)                                                                         09/01/2015 – 08/31/2019
“Sensorimotor Learning in Children with Cerebral Palsy”
Role: Co-Investigator
This award uses MEG imaging and advanced neural oscillatory analyses to examine the mechanisms of motor learning in typically-developing children and those with cerebral palsy. All participants undergo repeated MEG recording sessions before and after specific motor training protocols.

A-START DA041917-01A1, Wilson (PI)                                                        08/01/2016 – 07/30/2018
“The impact of marijuana use on brain and cognitive function in HIV-infected patients”
Role: Principal Investigator
This AIDS-Science Track Award for Research Transition (A-START) will enable the PI to expand his research program into the area of drug abuse. The main project will utilize neuroimaging and neuropsychological testing to identify how HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders are affected by chronic marijuana use, and determine whether the severity of cognitive deficits is connected to the extent of marijuana consumption (heavy vs. light).

AHA Collaborative Sciences Award, Schultz & Wilson (Co-PIs)                     07/01/2016 – 06/30/2019
American Heart Association
“Exploring the neurological basis of dyspnea and its impact on exercise intolerance in heart failure”
Role: Co-Principal Investigator
This translational study will identify the cortical brain circuits that underlie the sensation of dyspnea in humans with and without chronic heart failure (CHF) using MEG, and determine whether alterations in these circuits are linked to reduced exercise capacity in CHF. In parallel, dyspneic stimuli will be used to activate analogous brain circuits in rats with and without CHF, and we will test whether reversal of oxidative changes in dyspnea-related brain circuits improves autonomic and respiratory function, as well as exercise capacity in conscious CHF rats.