Collborative Research Areas
Major Research Domains
Behavioral Science Core
Brain Imaging Core
Cellular Morphology Core
Animal Behavior Core
Instrument Development Laboratory Core
Collaborative Research Area on Learning Disabilities
The Collaborative Research Area (CRA) on Learning Disabilities is currently focused on a major translational effort to address a range of learning disabilities. Our interdisciplinary research group is working to integrate and translate information on behavioral, genetic, and neurological levels to establish evidence-based interventions.
One aim is to validate definitions of specific kinds of learning disabilities that affect learning of written language (SLDs-WL) in children and youth whose development is otherwise typical. Currently, research does not support the use of IQ-achievement discrepancy alone or response to intervention (RTI) alone to define specific learning disabilities (SLDs). Moreover, there is no definitional consensus in special education laws and their implementation into educational practice across states and schools with respect to specific learning disabilities. As a result, some students are not diagnosed accurately and many with an SLD-WL are not identified and given appropriate instruction.
For purposes of evidence-based definitions and differential diagnosis, developmental profiles are constructed by our research team for each of five domains of development: cognition and memory; oral language; sensory and motor functions; social-emotional; and attention/executive functions. For children and youth who fall within the normal range within each of these domains of development, academic learning profiles are constructed for the key skills in writing and reading. In addition, phenotype profiles, based on over two decades of research, are constructed based on behavioral markers of gene expression and brain differences associated with 3 specific kinds of learning disabilities:
- dysgraphia (impaired handwriting)
- dyslexia (impaired word decoding and spelling), and
- oral and written language learning disability (OWLD) (impaired reading comprehension and written expression following preschool history of selective impairment in oral language learning).
A second specific aim of our CRA is to evaluate response to specialized instruction, computerized and tailored to the unique impairments in learning profiles. As in past research, our group will image brains before and after this specialized instruction. In addition, we will evaluate whether the 14 reported gene candidates for one of the disorders, dyslexia, predicts response to instruction (RTI). The social, emotional, and motivational aspects of the specific learning disabilities affecting written language (SLDs-WL) will also be explored. Hypotheses about nature-nurture interaction will be tested, especially about the structural and functional connectivity of brain regions—not just normalization in specific brain regions.
A third aim is to share the findings with educational practitioners, especially teachers, so that more students with specific kinds of learning profiles can be taught effectively in general education classrooms.
- Virginia Berninger, Ph.D.,
Professor, Educational Psychology, Coordinator
- Robert Abbott, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Educational Psychology
- Tom Grabowski, Ph.D., Professor, Radiology
- Kenneth Maravilla, M.D.,
- Deborah McCutchen, Ph.D., Professor, Educational Psychology
- Sue Nolen, Ph.D., Professor, Educational Psychology
- Wendy Raskind M.D., Ph.D.,
Professor, Medical Genetics
- Todd Richards, Ph.D.,
- Elizabeth Sanders, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology
- Steve Tanimoto, Ph.D., Professor, Computer Science and Engineering