CSCD 2017 Spring Colloquium Series

February 20, 2017

Language and Reading Disorders in Children: What’s the Role of Phonology?

12:00 p.m. (Reception to follow)
STAR Health Sciences Complex, Atrium
University of Delaware
540 S. College Avenue
Newark, DE 19713

Marc Joanisse, Ph.D.
University of Western Ontario

Abstract: Current theories of reading impairment suggest affected children have a phonological deficit that impairs how they learn of spelling-sound correspondences. Interestingly, a parallel literature on developmental language impairment (e.g., specific language impairment, or SLI) supports a similar explanation: that their language impairment stems from an auditory-phonological deficit. On this basis we might assume that the same underlying deficit causes both disorders. In this talk I propose that this view is in fact false: that while phonological difficulties are implicated in both populations, the specific nature of the deficit differs, leading to somewhat different impairments. I first present data from some of our recent large-scale studies of language and reading development showing that although the two difficulties tend to be comorbid, pure cases of either disorder do occur surprisingly often. The reason for this appears to be the specific nature of the phonological impairment in the two populations: I present behavioral markers of reading and oral language impairments that appear to be dissociable. I also present data from event-related potential (ERP) studies in which we examine sensitivity to spoken phonology in both groups. The results again support the view that the two groups show somewhat different constellations of difficulties with respect to auditory processing and phonology.Biography: Dr. Joanisse is a Professor and Faculty Scholar in the department of Psychology and the Brain & Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. His research program investigates the phonological bases of developmental reading and language impairments, acquisition of grammatical morphology, and the neural bases of reading and speech via functional neuroimaging (fMRI, EEG/ERP)

Biography: Dr. Joanisse is a Professor and Faculty Scholar in the department of Psychology and the Brain & Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. His research program investigates the phonological bases of developmental reading and language impairments, acquisition of grammatical morphology, and the neural bases of reading and speech via functional neuroimaging (fMRI, EEG/ERP).

March 20, 2017

Understanding Dysfunction and Remedy in the Reading Brain

12:00 p.m. (Reception to follow)
STAR Health Sciences Complex, Atrium
University of Delaware
540 S. College Avenue
Newark, DE 19713

Pete Molfese, Ph.D.
National Institutes of Health

Abstract: To date, much research has been conducted on the “reading system”.  Many of these studies reference the system as being composed of a network of three areas (IFG, STG, ITG) often referred to as dorsal and ventral reading networks.  In this talk, I will review past models of the reading system by highlighting research that identifies how the network changes in children and adults with reading disabilities (e.g., RD, dyslexia).  I will present recent research detailing how the brain of children and adults with RD changes with successful reading intervention, and then present additional work that suggests that efficiency in the reading system may stem not from overall “activation” while reading, but by developing a more efficient shared network for processing speech and print stimuli in the same areas.

Biography: Dr. Peter Molfese conducts research on the development of reading and learning in children.  His dissertation identified neural correlates of a reading intervention using Event-Related Potentials (ERPs).  This work was extended by work at Haskins Laboratories predicting future reading ability in children using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).  In addition to theoretical contributions to the field, Peter has contributed to advances in methodology through the development of a Pediatric MRI Atlas.

Peter Molfese received his PhD in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Houston in 2009, and completed postdocs at the Yale Child Study Center and Haskins Laboratories. After postdoc, he worked as a Research Scientist at Haskins Laboratories, and later Director of Operations for the Brain Imaging Research Center at the University of Connecticut.  In January 2017, Peter joined the Section on Functional NeuroImaging at the National Institutes of Mental Health, where he works on projects combining data from EEG, MEG, and fMRI in hopes of better identifying the “where” and “when” in the brain and how the joining of this information may lead to a better understanding of the development of learning and reading. .

April 17, 2017

Language, Memory, and Brain: Learning and Memory Brain Systems in First and Second Language

12:00 p.m. (Reception to follow)
STAR Health Sciences Complex, Atrium
University of Delaware
540 S. College Avenue
Newark, DE 19713

Michael Ullman, Ph.D.
Georgetown University

Abstract: Increasing evidence suggests that language learning, knowledge, and use crucially depend on two learning and memory systems in the brain: declarative memory and procedural memory. These systems, which also exist in other vertebrate species, appear to have been co-opted for language – whether or not they subsequently became further specialized for this domain, either evolutionarily or developmentally.

Because the behavioral, anatomical, physiological, molecular and genetic correlates of these two systems are quite well-studied in animals and humans, they lead to numerous specific predictions about language that would not likely be made in the more circumscribed study of language alone. This approach is thus very powerful in being able to generate a wide range of novel predictions for language – including for first and second language, in various healthy and disordered populations.

In the talk I will first provide some background on the two memory systems, and then discuss the manner in which language is predicted to depend on them. One of the key concepts is that to some extent the two systems can underlie the same functions (e.g., for navigation, grammar, etc.), and thus they play at least partly redundant roles for these functions. This has important consequences for first and second language, as well as for language disorders.

Following the background, I will present multidisciplinary evidence (behavioral, neurological, neuroimaging, electrophysiological) that basic aspects of language do indeed depend on the two memory systems, though in somewhat different ways across different populations. I will discuss normal first and second language, individual and group differences (e.g., sex differences), and language in disorders, focusing on neurodevelopmental disorders, especially Specific Language Impairment.

Biography: Dr. Ullman is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Neurology, Linguistics and Psychology. He is Director of the Brain and Language Laboratory and the Georgetown EEG/ERP Lab. His research examines the brain bases of first and second language, how language and memory are affected in various disorders (e.g., autism, dyslexia, Specific Language Impairment, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases), and how factors such as sex, handedness, and genetic variability affect the brain bases of language and memory.

May 15, 2017

The Effect of Familial Risk of Reading Disability on White Matter Development is mediated through Socioeconomic Status

12:00 p.m. (Reception to follow)
STAR Health Sciences Complex, Atrium
University of Delaware
540 S. College Avenue
Newark, DE 19713

Stephanie Del Tufo, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University

Abstract: It is estimated that 22% of children in the United States live in poverty. Socioeconomic Status (SES) encompasses a broad array of experiences, including an individual’s economic and social resources. Childhood SES is often determined by proximal factors relating to parental achievement such as highest level of educational attainment, and/or occupational status. Notably, children at a socioeconomic disadvantage have poorer reading ability. In addition, environmental and genetic factors are predictive of age-related differences in both reading ability and white matter connectivity, suggesting that there is a multifaceted link underlying the relationship between reading ability and white matter.

Previous studies of SES and brain structure have primarily focused on differences in gray matter. To date, very few studies have examined the influence of SES on indices of white matter microstructure/integrity (indexed via Fractional Anisotropy; FA), which may provide additional insight into the transfer efficiency of information across large networks.  In this talk, we provide evidence that FA in the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), a structure typically associated with reading development, is both jointly and independently linked to SES and reading development. Our findings also reveal the relationships between reading development, FA in the SLF, and familial risk. The results of our mediation analysis further suggest that increased familial risk lowers SES, which in turn decreases the child’s FA in the L SLF.

To our knowledge, this is the first report of SES showing a casual mediation effect on the relationship between familial risk for reading impairment and FA in the superior longitudinal fasciculus. This suggests that environmental factors are likely influencing the expression of genes associated with reading disability, and disrupting the development of structural connectivity.

Biography: Stephanie Del Tufo, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Vanderbilt Brain Institute & Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University. Her research centers on the neuronal plasticity that underlies typical and atypical developmental trajectories of reading and executive function. Specifically, she investigates the behavioral, genetic, neurochemical, functional and structural basis of developmental disorders.