2005: B.A. Honours (Psychology), University of Saskatchewan
2009: Ph.D. (Cognitive Neuropsychology), University of Saskatchewan
Areas of Interest
I am interested in reading and writing. In particular, under what conditions do skilled readers change their approaches to reading, how/when does reading break down, and how do the sensory systems (i.e., auditory, somatosensory, visual) contribute to reading proficiency and impairment? I am also exploring how the speech motor system shapes the way people acquire, refine and maintain reading skills, which involves a collaborative and multifaceted approach whereby we work with individuals with reading, hearing and/or speech impairments. Finally, I am also interested in the impact of reading impairments on social well-being.
In each of these endeavours, we implement a variety of behavioural measurements and brain-based methodologies (i.e., fMRI and DTI) to provide a comprehensive understanding of the skill/process in question.
Research Affiliate at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital
Literacy skills, which include reading and writing, are critical to communication in every aspect of life from completing assignments in school to completing professional projects at work, to socializing with friends and family on social media forums and email. For some individuals, these skills are relatively automatic and our self-efficacy, or belief in our abilities to complete these tasks, are high. For others, the notion of composing an email or writing a paper for a class causes overwhelming anxiety, social withdrawal and low self-efficacy. I am interested in advancing our understanding of the skills/processes that facilitate skilled reading, what happens when reading breaks downs and how reading skills change as a function of perturbations, and, importantly, the types of resources that may be useful for individuals with reading impairments.
Teaching areas include Research Methods and Design (CSD 501), Advanced Univariate Statistics (REHAB 699) and Readings on Selected Topics in Neuroscience (NEURO 450).
An individual study course involving detailed reading on a selected topic in cellular, molecular, systems, or cognitive neuroscience. Students will select a member of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (NMHI) who will guide them through a course of reading on a specialized topic at an advanced level. Completion of this course requires an oral presentation to an examining committee. Restricted to students in the Honors program in Neuroscience. Registration must be approved by the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (NMHI). Prerequisites: PMCOL 371, PHYSL 372.Winter Term 2021
Cognitive Load: It is likely that we have all had the experience of looking for an address or a landmark while also listening to the radio, perhaps with children or friends making noise in the background. This situation leads to a perceived strain on our resources that leads drivers to feel the need to “shut down” at least some of the distraction (reduce the noise in the car) or enhance some other wanted signal (turn up the volume on the GPS), so that we can “focus” on finding the address or landmark. This is a real life situation where we have to “make sense” of a variety of incoming inputs from our eyes and ears while performing a task that requires our attention. Working with collaborators (W. Hodgetts, D. Aalto), we are trying to understand how cognitive load impacts various tasks in individuals with and without hearing loss.
Sensory Integration: We are studying the relative contributions of the visual, auditory and somatosensory systems during various cognitive tasks. More specifically, we are interested in how the reliance on these systems shifts as a function of impairment (e.g., dyslexia, hearing loss, apraxia of speech) and/or the susceptibility of these systems to perturbations. Such information is informative as we understand the impacts of cognitive load and also has the potential to inform remediation approaches.
2018 - 2023
Theoretical pathways: I am interested in reading acquisition, refinement and maintenance in the context of the print-to-speech model. The print-to-speech model describes how skilled reading relies on feedforward (i.e., motor representations) and feedback (i.e., auditory and somatosensory) representations. In each of these spaces, we use a variety of behavioural measurements and brain-based methodologies (i.e., fMRI and DTI) to better understand the role of the motor-speech system to basic reading processes. From children to adults, we are trying to characterize how the reading system is connected to the motor-speech system. NSERC funded (2018-2023).
Functional pathways: Literacy skills (e.g., reading and writing) can have a profound impact on an individuals’ academic achievement, career opportunities, mental well-being, and social life, particularly in today’s society where social media platforms are extensive and rely heavily on written communication (e.g., email, facebook, twitter, etc.). Individuals with impaired literacy skills experience: decreased opportunities for employment, overall lower paying jobs, decreased success in educational environments, and increased mental health issues (i.e., depression and anxiety), just to name a few. As such, we are exploring new avenues of support for individuals with literacy impairments that go beyond the traditional and focused literacy frameworks to a broader and more holistic social framework (e.g., self-efficacy).