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Ph.D., University of Zürich, Switzerland, (2004)
Nadine Gaab is an associate professor of education. She received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Zürich in Switzerland and did postdoctoral training at Stanford University and MIT.
Gaab’s work focuses on developmental cognitive neuroscience, particularly in language-based learning disabilities and typical and atypical reading development. Her research within the Gaablab the development of typical and atypical language and literacy skills in the pediatric brain as well as pre-markers of learning disabilities. Her work also focuses on developing EDtech screening tools for screening literacy milestones and developmental dyslexia as well as on educational policy and advocacy on behalf of children with learning disabilities.
She is the 2019 recipient of the LDA Award (Learning Disabilities Association America) for her work on learning disabilities. In 2018, Gaab was presented with the Allan C. Crocker Award for her advocacy on behalf of children with dyslexia and reading disabilities and efforts around the recent passage of the Massachusetts screening legislation. She has also been recognized by the International Dyslexia Association in her receipt of the Norman Geschwind Memorial lecture in 2020 and the Alice H. Garside Award for outstanding leadership in advancing the science and advocacy of dyslexia. She is a co-founder of EarlyBird Education, a company that focuses on developing screeners for the early identification of reading difficulties, including dyslexia, and works to provide practical solutions for evidence-based responses following screenings.
The Gaablab employs cross-sectional and longitudinal study designs and works closely with numerous public and private schools and districts within the U.S.
Click here to see a full list of Nadine Gaab’s courses.
Arithmetic and reading are the most fundamental skills acquired during elementary school and are crucial for successful academic achievement, employment prospects, and mental health. Despite the significance of arithmetical and reading skills, many children and adults in developed societies exhibit deficient reading and arithmetical abilities. Accumulating evidence suggests a strong neurocognitive and genetic link between reading and arithmetic, with high co-occurrence rates of both reading and arithmetical learning difficulties. However, the developmental trajectories of typical and atypical arithmetical and reading skills have been predominantly studied apart and potential shared mechanisms of typical and atypical reading and arithmetic development are unknown. Here, for the first time, we propose a longitudinal investigation that aims to (a) compare typical and atypical developmental trajectories of reading and arithmetic from kindergarten to third grade, (b) characterize similarities, differences, and classification power of neural and cognitive measures to profile the shared mechanisms underlying arithmetic and reading, and (c) determine a set of predictors in kindergarten predicting arithmetic and reading outcome after four years of formal instruction.
Employing a longitudinal study design, the proposed project aims to investigate the developmental relationships of reading and arithmetic in the typical and atypical development of arithmetical skills from the beginning of kindergarten to third grade, in 180 children with either a familial risk for arithmetic difficulties (AD), a familial risk for reading difficulties (RD), or without any familial risk for reading or arithmetical difficulties, using functional and structural brain measures and behavioral correlates. Neural correlates of arithmetic, reading, and related subskills, together with a comprehensive psychometric battery measuring reading and arithmetical development and domain-general and domain-specific skills, will be examined four times over four years during critical stages of acquiring literacy and numerical concepts. By targeting children with a family history of AD and RD, and due to the genetic profile overlap of these two conditions, the probability of children exhibiting atypical reading and arithmetic development is increased, which will allow us to study and compare the developmental trajectories of both typical and atypical reading and arithmetical skills.
This study has the potential to provide a model for understanding developmental learning disabilities, their underlying mechanisms, and their co-occurrence. The current focus on a reactive, deficit-driven instead of a preventive model in the field of learning disabilities is detrimental for students, as interventions have been proven to be most effective at an earlier age of heightened brain plasticity and because of the implications for mental health in struggling students as a result of the current wait-to-fail approach. Understanding the shared and distinct underlying cognitive and neural mechanisms between typical and atypical arithmetic and reading skills and their precursors will be of great significance for the development of early screening, diagnostic, and intervention tools.