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I have long been interested in brain development in children with developmental and acquired disabilities. Part of understanding how things go wrong involves knowing, as well, what normal development looks like.

One of the most exiting aspects of living in this time is that the tools with which we can observe brain functioning have evolved to include non-invasive methods such as MRI, fMRI and DTI. My reserach team utilizes neuropsychological testing to elicit observable behaviors that indicate how a person's brain is functioning. We also use neuroimaging techniques to tie behaviors to brain structure and activation.


Social Perception. What are the neural correlates of social perception in children with Asperger's Disorder, High Functioning Autism, and Nonverbal Learning Disability. How do they differ, and how can we target interventions to improve the neural circuitry for these children? A preliminary study in healthy young adults suggested gender differences in social perception (Fine, Semrud-Clikeman & Zhu, 2009).Structural and functional neuroimaging of these groups are revealing interesting similarities and differences that will soon be available through publications.

Neuropsychological correlates of mathematics. My research team is currently launching a major initiative into examining what underlying process difficulties might underlay difficulties in learning mathematics. We have developed some probes to test visuo-spatial functioning and how it relates to numeric estimation and mathematics fluency. Students in the lab have launched their own projects looking at the relation between mathematics and anxiety, mathematics and attention, and gender differences in mathematical processes influenced by visuo-spatial skill..

Internal/external validity of the NVLD syndrome. NVLD is a controversial diagnosis that is becoming more popular among clinicians. The boundaries between NVLD and other diagnoses, such as Asperger's Disorder and ADHD are not clear (Fine, et al. 2012). Historically, this group has been studied using poorly defined and quite heterogeneous samples. Our team is looking at the neuropsychological characteristics of this group. We recently discovered that children with NVLD have smaller splenia that children with high functioning autism, ADHD or neurotypical controls (Fine, Musielak & Semrud-Clikeman, 2013 online).

Dyslexia. Past research (Fine, Semrud-Clikeman, Keith, Stapleton & Hynd, 2007) has indicated that the neural pathways involved in dyslexia may be related to understimulation of the primary-to-secondary auditory sensory system. Future research is planned to use DTI to confirm this hypothesis and to establish early interventions.






Magnetic Resonance

MRI is a non-invasive procedure that provides high resolution pictures of the brain. We use these images to measure the volume of specific brain structures.



Functional MRI
Functional MRI tracks the deoxygenation of blood in the brain, which is presumed to be associated with brain activity. We use this type of image to learn about brain activation in response to specific stimuli.



Diffusion Tensor Imaging
DTI tracks the perfusion of water through the brain, yielding a measure of the integrity of the white matter structures.