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Robert Dougherty: The Neuroanatomy of Reading Development

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of a great talk from Dr. Robert Dougherty.


Proficient reading is an impressive skill that requires precise coordination of various cognitive, sensory, and motor systems. I will describe measurements of functional and anatomical development in the visual pathways of children that are essential for reading. We have found several functional and anatomical measures that are correlated with the development of reading skills, including: 1. fMRI word visibility responsivity to an incidental reading task in ventral occipito-temporal cortex, 2. fMRI contrast responsivity in human MT+ to drifting gratings, and 3. diffusion tensor imaging measurements in several regions within the white matter, including the splenium of the corpus callosum. These functional and anatomical results implicate a network of visual regions important for skilled reading and are clinically relevant to understanding healthy reading development and identifying reading disabilities.


The goal of my research is to understand the brain circuits that are crucial for skilled reading and to chart the development of these circuits in children. I specialize in measuring the structure and function of the human brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). By combining these brain measurements with careful measurements of behavior, we can understand the intimate connection between brain maturation and the development of complex behaviors such as skilled reading. I received my BA from Rutgers University in 1991 and my PhD in experimental psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1996. I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia and BC's Children's Hospital Visual Neuroscience Lab. It was there that I began to investigate the perceptual aspects of reading and reading disabilities in children. I continue to study reading development as project lead of the NIH-funded SIRL Longitudinal Study of Reading Development.


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