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Our team researches neurodevelopment in childhood especially during early infancy and childhood education.

For early infancy, we are looking at white matter development during the first year of life. White matter myelination has gained substantial attention in recent years as a critical mechanism of brain plasticity. In the second trimester of pregnancy, the white matter of the fetus contains little to no myelin, but by 5 years of age, most of the myelin has been established. However, little is known about the spatiotemporal progression of this development. This is what we want to investigate by using large, open source datasets and developing anatomically-informed software that automatically delineates white matter pathways in early life. We are also looking at the impact of preterm birth on white matter development as this is associated with long-term cognitive consequences such as learning diasabilities.

For childhood education, particularly the acquisition of math and reading skills, we want to address fundamental questions about the human brain. Math and reading are uniquely human abilities that are acquired through extensive learning, typically during our childhood education. As such, understanding what are the neural substrates of math and reading and how these substrates emerge as we acquire these essential skills provides important insight on how learning and cultural inventions shape cognition and the human brain. For example, the neural substrates of math and reading can help us understand why the brain is organized the way it is, which components of the brain are static and which change due to learning, and how brain function and structure concert human cognition. Moreover, a better understanding of the neural substrates of math and reading will also play a critical role in battling math and reading learning disabilities, which can have dramatic implications for the socioeconomic outlook of the afflicted children. Addressing these gaps in knowledge requires understanding of multiple aspects of the brain, which is why our research is characterized by a multimodal approach that combines functional (fMRI), quantitative (qMRI) and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) with behavioral data.