In the News...
LRDC Research Scientist Scott Fraundorf is quoted in "Filler Words Like 'Um' Aren't All Bad, and Can Be Used to Your Advantage" in the weblog “lifehacker.” Article here.
LRDC Research Scientist Lindsay Page's research on "summer melt" was cited in the Wall Street Journal article "Charter School Gives College-Bound Grads the Help They Need." Article here.
LRDC Research Scientist Jamie Hanson's work on childhood stress and mental health is featured in the Child & Family Blog's article "Brain Scans Show Biological Link Between Early Life Stress and Poorer Adult Mental Health." Article here.
LRDC Research Scientist Brain Galla's work on adolescent mental well-being is featured in The Huffington Post article "How Self-Compassion Can Help Teens De-stress." Article here.
LRDC Research Associate Jennifer Iriti is quoted in the MartketWatch article on Promise programs "These Cities have been Offering Free College for Years." Article here.
Pitt Neuroscientists’ Study Sheds Light on How Words Are Represented in the Brain
Reading is a relatively modern and uniquely human skill. Avniel Ghuman, an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery, reports that “Wernicke, Dejerine, and Charcot, among the most important and influential neurologists and neuroscientists of the 19th century, debated whether or not there was a visual center for words in the brain.”In recent years, much of this debate has centered on the left mid-fusiform gyrus, which some call the visual word form area. A recent study by Pitt neuroscience researchers addresses this debate and sheds light on our understanding of the neurobiology of reading. In a study to be published July 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ghuman, Elizabeth Hirshorn of Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), and colleagues from the Department of Psychology and Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition used direct neural recordings and brain stimulation to study the role of the visual word form area in reading in four epileptic patients. The patients chose surgical treatment for their drug-resistant epilepsy and volunteered to participate in the research study. As part of the surgical treatment, neurosurgeons implanted electrodes in the patients’ visual word form area, providing an unprecedented opportunity to understand how the brain A brief video of the procedure can be seen here: https://youtu.be/N4FYG7UW-vM.
In addition to stimulating through these electrodes, the activity from the area was recorded while the patients read words. Using techniques from machine learning to analyze the brain activity that evolved over a few hundred milliseconds from this region, the researchers could tell what word a patient was reading at a particular moment. This suggests that neural activity in the area codes knowledge about learned visual words that can be used to discriminate even words that are only one letter different from one another (for example, “hint” and “lint”).
“This study shows that the visual word form area is exquisitely tuned to the fine details of written words and that this area plays a critical role in refining the brain’s representation of what we are reading. The disrupted word and letter perception seen with stimulation provides direct evidence that the visual word form area plays a dedicated role in skilled reading,” said Hirshorn. “These results also have important implications for understanding and treating reading disorders. The activity in the visual word form area, along with its interactions with other brain areas involved in language processing, could be a marker for proficient reading. Having a better understanding of this neural system could be critical for diagnosing reading disorders and developing targeted therapies.”
EA Hirshorn, Y Li, MJ Ward, RM Richardson, JA Fiez, and AS Ghuman (2016). Decoding and Disrupting Word Individuation in the Left Mid-Fusiform Gyrus. Read about the research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences here.
To 2016 Tim Post Awardee Jessie Northrup (Faculty Advisor: Jana Iverson) for her paper “Vocal coordination during early parent-infant interactions predicts language outcome in infant siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder.” Jamie Amemiya (Faculty Advisor: Ming-Te Wang) was runner up with “Teacher Theories of Math Ability, Instructional Style, and Student Math Outcomes during High School.”
LRDC scientists Diane Litman, Richard Correnti, and Lindsay Clare Matsumura have been awarded an IES grant for their project, “Response-to-text Tasks to Assess Students’ Use of Evidence and Organization in Writinhg: Using Natural Language Processing for Scoring Writing and Providing Feedback At Scale.”
Bathgate, M., & Schunn, C. D., (2016) Disentagling intensity from breadth of science interest: What predicts learning behaviors? Instructional Sciences, 44(5), 423-440. Article here.
Hourihan, K., Fraundorf, S. H. & Benjamin, A. (2016). The influences of valence and arousal on judgments of learning and on recall. Memory & Cognition. Article here.
Hurwitz, M., Mbekeani, P. P., Nipson, M. M., Page, L. C. (2016). Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Article here.
Libertus, K., Greif, M. L., Needham, A., & Pelphrey, K. A. (2016). Infants’ observation of tool-use events over the first year of life. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 152, 123-135. Article here.
Matsumura, L. C., Bickel, D. D., Zook-Howell, D., Correnti, R., Walsh, M. (2016). Cloud coaching. JSD, 37(4), 30-39.
Nguyen, H. V., Litman, D. J. (2016). Context-aware Argumentative Relation Mining. Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, 1127–1137. Proceedings here.