Twelfth International Summer School on Mind, Brain and Education

2017 September 1–7

Neuroscience of poverty

Director of the School: Antonio M. Battro
Director of the Course: Sebastián J. Lipina
Codirectors of the Course: Eric Pakulak, María Soledad Segretin
Management Assistance of the Course: Matías Lopez-Rosenfeld
Program Officer of the School: Lula Majdalani

Joanna Christodoulou
MGH Institute of Health Professions

Joanna A. Christodoulou, EdD is an Assistant Professor at the MGH Institute of Health Professions. She also holds positions as an Adjunct Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and as a Research Affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She works at the intersection of education, clinical, and research contexts. She leads the Brain, Education, and Mind (BEAM) Team to study the brain and behavior links underlying reading, math, and attention development and difficulty. Current research projects examine individual response to intervention, remediation and compensation in struggling learners, and summer reading growth. She was awarded the 2014 award for Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award from the Learning & the Brain Foundation and the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society.


The vast majority of research examining the underpinnings of reading disability (RD), its developmental profile, and potential interventions has been conducted in convenience samples of mid- to high-SES children. In this longitudinal study, we aimed to (1) extend findings of relationships between SES and abilities in language and literacy to a sample of children with RD, and (2) investigate potential SES-related differences in response to a well-known reading intervention program.Children with dyslexia (ages 6-9) were assigned to receive an intensive summer reading intervention or to a waiting-list control group. Before and after intervention/waiting, children completed MRI and assessments of cognition, language, and reading. The intervention group received the Lindamood-Bell Seeing Stars program for at least 100 instruction hours over 6 weeks. At baseline, higher SES correlated with greater vocabulary and greater cortical thickness in bilateral perisylvian and supramarginal regions. Within the intervention group, lower SES was associated with both greater reading improvement and greater cortical thickening across broad, bilateral occipitotemporal and temporoparietal regions following the intervention. Treatment responders, compared to treatment non-responders, exhibited significantly greater cortical thickening within similar regions. These findings indicate that effective summer reading intervention is coupled with cortical growth, and is especially beneficial for children with RD who come from lower-SES home environments.

Literature to share
• Romeo, R.R., Christodoulou, J.A., Halverson, K.K., Murtagh, J., Cyr, A.B., Schimmel, C., Chang, P., Hook, P.E., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2017). Socioeconomic status and Reading disability: Neuroanatomy and plasticity in response to intervention. Cerebral Cortex, 6, 1-16.