Reading and Language in Children

  • Reading and language impairments: Our research focuses on the linguistic and non-linguistic factors contributing to childhood-based reading impairments such as dyslexia. We are also interested in how similar difficulties could explain spoken language disorders such as language learning disability (sometimes called specific language impairment, or SLI).
  • Neuroimaging Studies: Studies with children include functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and event-related potentials (ERPs), which we use to record brain activity as children read or listen to words or sentences. These methods show us how different brain regions are implicated in children's reading and language disorders.
  • Genetics of language and reading disorders: In collaboration with other researchers, we are examining the role that distinct genetic factors play in different aspects of reading and language abilities.

Language Processing in Adults

  • The Influence of Fluency and Emotion in Word Naming: We are currently investigating whether or not making words harder to read (i.e., less fluent) attenuates the emotional reactions typically felt in response to these words.
  • Neurobiology of Reading Proficiency: These studies investigate whether the variability in reading proficiency observed in normally reading individuals relates to differential activation of the neural network for language. We are also using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to determine whether the variability observed in reading proficiency relates to differences in the morphology and coherence of the pathways that connect the language centers of the brain together.
  • Language Learning: Humans are remarkably adept at learning language. In the first two years of life, we go from not being able to speak to knowing hundreds of words. By adulthood, we have tens of thousands of words in our vocabulary. Uncovering how this learning happens is a main question of our research. Languages, such as English, contain learnable patterns and regularities. This research combines behavioural and neuroimaging approaches to study how we learn these sorts of patterns.
  • Brain bases of second-language processing: Unlike first-language development, learning a second language is difficult for adults, and many individuals never achieve perfect fluency. We are using multiple approaches including ERPs and MRI/fMRI to examine how processing a second language differs from a first language, and how the age of second language acquisition influences these results.

Current Grant Support

  • Canadian Institutes for Health Research
    • Operating Grant: "Neural bases of normal and impaired speech perception in children and adultss 
    • New Investigators Program: "The Neural Bases of specific language impairments and dyslexia: Evidence from neuroimaging" 2005-2008