Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience | Research Projects

Here at the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, we are working to shed light on these questions through a variety of ongoing child and adolescent development research studies. By learning more about brain and behavior development across the lifespan, we aim to contribute to the healthy growth and development of our children.

The Faja Laboratory

  • Plasticity and treatment response. Can existing training programs be adapted for clinical use? Which aspects of behavior and neural function change in response to intervention?
  • Individual differences. How can we understand the vast differences in children with autism spectrum disorders? Do we see the same patterns in typical development? Can we better predict which individuals will respond to interventions or may benefit from combinations of treatments?
  • Autism spectrum disorders. What risk factors are associated with specific aspects of autism? How can we better measure the strengths and challenges of all individuals with autism spectrum disorders? How can we better understand and support individuals with autism later in life?

The Gaab Laboratory

  • Dyslexia, reading impairment and brain development. Are there brain differences between infants and young children who subsequently will struggle learning to read? If so, how early might we be able to identify these differences and how do they hold up along the developmental trajectory as the children reach school age? This will inform early screening practices and help to develop early intervention strategies.
  • Compensatory and protective factors in dyslexia and reading impairment. Some children have a strong genetic risk to develop dyslexia but they subsequently develop typical reading skills while others struggle with reading acquisition. What are some of the compensatory and protective factors that may facilitate typical reading development in children at-risk?
  • Early prediction of reading disabilities in English/Spanish pre-readers. This study focuses on early prediction of reading disabilities in preschoolers and kindergartners who speak English and Spanish to support more effective prediction and intervention for all. This is especially important for bilingual Spanish speakers, as many of the current diagnostic assessments were developed with only English speakers in mind.
  • Early Literacy Milestone/Dyslexia Screener. Dr. Gaab and her team has developed a tablet-based gamified app to comprehensively screen 4-6 year old children on early indicators of later reading success. We are currently validating the app against classic, standardized pencil and paper measures with preschool and kindergarten children nationwide

The Nelson Laboratory    

  • The ability to recognize faces and emotions. How do infants and children learn to process the social information that faces convey? What is happening differently for children with autism spectrum disorders, who often struggle with everyday social interactions? Are there links between how social information is processed in infancy and children who later develop problems with anxiety?
  • The impacts of early biological and psychosocial adversity.  How do such experiences impact brain development? Can we identify ways to remediate some of the negative impacts? What would early intervention look like for children exposed to adversity early in life?
  • Infants and children at high risk for developing Autism Spectrum Disorder. How early in life can we identify infants who will later develop autism?  And, can our brain-based measures of autism shed light on why some children develop autism and others do not?