Jason Yeatman’s research lies at the intersection of education and neuroscience. The overarching theme in his lab is understanding the interplay between brain development, education experience, and learning outcomes, specifically reading abilities. By combining quantitative neuroimaging methods with educational interventions, he strives to understand how a child’s unique pattern of brain maturation predisposes them to succeed or struggle in a specific education program. Over time, he plans to develop personalized intervention programs that are tailored and timed to characteristics of an individual’s neurobiology.
What have I achieved during my fellowship?
During the followship we ran studies to better understand the neurobiological foundations of learning differences and developed new, open-access, online tools for educational assessment. By combining and intensive reading intervention program with cutting-edge quantitative MRI measuresment we found that altering a child’s educational environment through a targeted intervention program induces rapid, large-scale changes in white matter tissue properties, and that these changes track the learning process. Building on these novel findings, our follow-up work seeks to: (a) predict individual differences in children’s learning trajectories based on the structure of their reading circuitry, and (b) understand the long-term implications of rapid, intervention-driven plasticity. By combining these data with advances in biophysical modeling we are working to understand the cellular changes that underly the rapid phase of white matter plasticity, laying the foundation for long-term remodeling.
When the pandemic began in March of 2020, my lab pivoted to developing new, online tools to help us continue our research amidst the instability imposed by the pandemic. In this period we developed the first completely automated online measure of reading ability – the Rapid Online Assessment of Reading (ROAR). In a sequence of studies we validated this automated, online assessment system against individually administered, gold-standard reading assessments and were able to achieve an online measure with better reliability and validity than many standardized clinical assessments. The ROAR makes it possible to assess a whole school district in the same amount of time as it would typically take to assess a single child. Through collaborative research parternships we are working with school districts to design a tool that meets the needs of teachers and administrators and is connected to ongoing research.
My plans for the future
While continueing our research on the neurobiological foundations of learning differences we are also working to scale the new technology my lab has developed to meet the needs of researchers, educators and clinicians around the world. We envision an open-access assessment platform that is grounded in ongoing science, with applications in schools, clinics and research labs. More information on continued developments on the ROAR can be found on our website: https://dyslexia.stanford.edu/roar