NeuroCognitive Imaging Lab at Dalhousie University

Reading Development

Project Rationale

One of the most valuable skills we learn is how to read. Reading skill is essential for academic and career success. For some children, learning to read is a challenging task, and this begs the question: Why are some children stronger readers than others? Being able to understand individual differences in reading development provides the opportunity to design better reading education programs that provide personalised teaching strategies for individual children’s needs.

What do we already know?

Past literature suggests that an early indicator of reading ability is how precisely individual words are represented in the brain. That is, individuals who read fluently would have distinct representations of each word in their brain. Previously, using electroencephalography (EEG), we found that more differentiated brain responses to individual words were associated with stronger reading ability.

Overview of the Current Study

To build on previous research examining the relationships between brain activity and reading ability, the present study is a 2-year longitudinal study. Children from grades 2 and 3 are recruited and participation lasts until they are in Grades 4 and 5. We’ll conduct one neuroimaging session to examine their neural activity patterns in response to individual words and multiple reading assessments over the two years. With neuroimaging tools, and behavioural measures of reading ability, we can then investigate if more differentiated brain responses, to different words, are related to better reading skill.


The goal of this study is to investigate the relationship between reading skills and children’s brain responses to words, so that we can better understand how individual differences in brain activity relate to children’s future reading abilities.

Current State of the Study

We plan to resume data collection in the autumn of 2023. If you would like more information on participating or volunteering in this study, please contact us at [email protected].


This project is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Reseaerch Council (SSHRC).