Deborah Giaschi

Professor

Research Classification

Vision
Visual System
Sensation and Perception
Eye and Visual System Diseases
Infant / Child Development

Research Interests

amblyopia
reading

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Research Methodology

neuroimaging
psychophysics

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Resolving inconsistencies in the maturation of human global motion perception (2018)

No abstract available.

Academic and neuroimaging outcomes of school-based reading interventions (2017)

Early intervention is important for decreasing the prevalence of reading disabilities. However, despite receiving treatment, some children continue to struggle with reading and therefore they require ongoing supports. Intensive and individualized programs may be beneficial for the lowest-performing readers, however, empirical review of intensive and individualized programs has not been widely conducted. Furthermore, there is a neurobiological basis to reading impairments. Children with poor reading skills have differences in brain function and structure when compared to typically-developing readers, and there may be changes in the brain after intervention. However, the combination of multiple reading tasks in functional brain imaging along with measures of grey and white matter structure has not been conducted previously. Therefore, the purpose of my dissertation was to evaluate the academic and neurobiological outcomes of an intensive reading program as well as to determine the predictors of reading success. In Chapter 2, poor readers receiving intensive instruction were compared to other poor readers receiving small group supports as well as to good readers not receiving additional supports. Performance on academic and cognitive measures were evaluated before and after 3 months of instruction and one year later. In Chapters 3 and 4, poor readers and good readers completed functional imaging tasks (Chapter 3) and scans of grey and white matter (Chapter 4) before and after 3 months of instruction. The results showed that students in the intensive program had improved word recognition and decoding fluency immediately after intervention and one year later. Changes after intervention were also shown in functional brain activity during a rhyming task, but not during a spelling task or in grey and white matter structures. However, baseline reading and spelling skills, brain activity in the left hemisphere, and white matter organization in the right hemisphere were associated with gains in reading skills over time. Although improvements in reading were shown, a significant gap between poor and good readers persisted in the third and fourth grades. Overall, this dissertation illustrates the importance of an intensive reading program and the need for continuing supports, and that both academic and neuroimaging measures are associated with reading outcome.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
A functional MRI investigation into the neural correlates of the multiple-object tracking deficit in amblyopia. (2010)

Amblyopia is a visual developmental disorder defined by reduced visual acuity in one (amblyopic) eye, while the other (fellow) eye has normal visual acuity and is otherwise healthy. Deficits in motion perception – such as multiple object tracking - affect both the amblyopic eye and the fellow eye. This thesis examined the neural correlates of the multiple-object tracking deficit to further understand the cortical deficit in amblyopia. Functional data were collected as participants with and without a history of amblyopia performed the multiple-object tracking task monocularly inside a 3T MRI scanner. Participants were asked to use their attention to track 0, 1, 2 or 4 of 9 moving balls (6 deg/s) for 12 seconds. MR signal change relative to fixation, as a function of target numerosity (track 0, track 1, track 2, track 4), group (control, amblyopia), and eye were examined in six regions of interest: putative V1, MT, superior parietal lobule, frontal eye fields, anterior intraparietal sulcus, and posterior intraparietal sulcus. For all four tracking conditions, area MT was found to be less active in participants with amblyopia with both fellow and amblyopic eye viewing. When tracking 4 balls, the anterior intraparietal sulcus was found to be less active in participants with amblyopia, only with amblyopic eye viewing. This finding suggests the functional differences in this region may be subtle. Future investigations targeting the network involved in sustained attention can determine the extent to which posterior parietal function may be impaired in amblyopia. Overall, this thesis provided neuroimaging evidence that the MT region is affected in human amblyopia, and that both eyes are affected by underlying cortical changes in dorsal extra-striate areas.

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Overlapping cortical regions for reading and temporal processing in developmental dyslexia (2010)

Children with developmental dyslexia have difficulty learning to read. These children may also have deficits in temporal processing, which is the perception and integration of rapidly presented stimuli. Behavioural research indicates a link between reading and temporal processing ability; however, the cortical relationship between these two skills has not been established. This thesis examined whether tasks of reading and temporal processing activate similar cortical regions in children with average reading ability and in children with dyslexia. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), activity for two reading tasks (phonological and orthographic) and two temporal processing tasks (dichotic pitch and global motion perception) was assessed. Three regions of interest were established in each participant: the lateral occipital cortex (LOC) and areas engaged by dichotic pitch and global motion tasks. Results demonstrated that both groups had increased activity in bilateral LOC during reading. In average readers, left LOC was more active than right regions during the phonological task, while dyslexic readers showed equivalent activity between left and right LOC for both reading tasks. The dichotic pitch regions did not show any evidence of activation during reading in either group. However, children with dyslexia exhibited significant activity in right global motion regions during the phonological task, but only on the difficult word condition. Average readers did not illustrate activation in global motion areas during reading. The current results suggest that LOC is involved with the reading process and children with dyslexia may have a deficit in left LOC. It was hypothesized that dyslexic readers may have increased attentional processing and recruitment from additional cortical regions during difficult tasks, which may explain the similar activity between global motion and phonological reading. Since there were no similar regions between dichotic pitch and reading, this suggests that these may not be directly related through cortical activity. The current results provide novel evidence that reading and visual temporal processing may involve some of the same cortical areas, at least in children with dyslexia. Future research will investigate links between reading and temporal processing in younger children and will examine differences in white matter connectivity.

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Publications

 

Membership Status

Member of G+PS
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Location

BC Children's Hospital

Program Affiliations

 

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