LEARN Lab

People

Principal Investigator

Elizabeth Norton, Ph.D.

I am an assistant professor in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University. My research focuses on understanding typical reading and language development as well as developmental and learning disabilities, including dyslexia, developmental language disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. My lab uses different types of brain imaging, such as MRI and EEG/ERP, in combination with behavioral measures to address these questions. I am particularly interested in how combining behavior with brain imaging might help us to identify children who are at risk for these disorders earlier than traditional behavioral methods would allow, so that earlier intervention can be provided. I am also working to bring our neuroscience tools to more “real world” contexts, such as the NICU for preterm infants or to assess parents and toddlers brains as they play together.

Our collaborative work at Northwestern brings this approach of brain-behavior integration to earlier identification of language and neurodevelopmental problems in different domains: infants born preterm, children at risk for mental health or behavior problems, and children’s response to healthy lifestyle intervention.

I am also committed to bridging neuroscience research to educational and applied settings. I have worked with schools, community groups, and policy makers such as Decoding Dyslexia, Everyone Reading Illinois, Landmark School, and the Illinois State Board of Education to improve awareness of reading and language disorders and advocate for policy changes that make our educational and clinical practices consistent with current research.

At Northwestern, I am an active member of the Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences (DevSci) and co-director of the DevSci Neurodevelopmental Resource Core. I mentor doctoral students through the PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders and the Northwestern Interdisciplinary Neuroscience (NUIN) Program.

I obtained my B.A. in Language and Brain Development at Dartmouth College and my Ph.D. at Tufts University in Child Study and Human Development. I completed my postdoctoral training in the Gabrieli Lab at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

Email enorton at northwestern.edu

See my CV (PDF, March 2017)


Students & Staff

Jessica Page, Postdoctoral fellow
I am a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University. I received my B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy at the University at Buffalo. I completed both my M.Ed. in Early Intervention and Family Support and my Ph.D. in Applied Development Science and Special Education, and Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My research uses interdisciplinary practices to capture the transition from infancy to toddlerhood, a time period in which children show vast change. Given this immense change, I am interested in examining risk for neurodevelopmental disorders by using behavioral and imaging assays as EEG/ERP and MRI to examine cognitive development in both wake and sleep. My research seeks to understand how these states influence developmental neuropathology and the presence of atypical brain oscillations embedded within the EEG of individuals with or at increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.

 

Lisa Gresch, PhD student
I am a PhD student in Communication Sciences and Disorders and a licensed speech-language pathologist. I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders at California State University, Fullerton and my Master’s degree in Speech, Language, and Learning at Northwestern University. My research interests are driven by my clinical experiences working at a school for children with emotional and behavioral challenges and on an early intervention team serving families of young children who were Deaf and hard-of-hearing. I am passionate about conducting clinically relevant research to help parents and professionals understand the relationship between a child’s language skills and their ability to regulate their emotions and behavior, learn new things, and develop positive relationships with others.

 

Silvia Lam, PhD student
I am a PhD student in Communication Sciences & Disorders. Before coming to Northwestern, I did my undergraduate and masters studies in Psychology in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. My research interests lie in two main areas: understanding factors that contribute to children’s literacy development in English and Chinese, and examining the importance of different sensory domains such as auditory, motor, and visual in literacy development. I am also broadly interested in using neuroimaging techniques in understanding children’s brain development in relation to literacy acquisition. In my free time, I love doing yoga, cooking with friends, traveling with my backpack, painting, and reading (non-research papers).

 

Brittany Manning, PhD student
I am a PhD student in Northwestern University’s Communication Sciences and Disorders Department. Previously, I completed both BA (2010) and MS degrees (2012) in Communicative Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research interests lie in studying language and literacy development, with a focus on cognitive processing, social skills, and language environment. From 2012 to 2016, I practiced as a speech-language pathologist, working closely with Chicago area schools. In my research, I aim to answer clinically relevant questions in children with specific language impairment, dyslexia, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders.

 

Sean McWeeny, PhD student
I am a PhD student in Communication Sciences & Disorders. I received my B.S. in Psychology and Music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before moving to Chicago, I taught piano to toddlers and worked with adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability in a vocational and residential setting. I am interested in how we can better predict who will go on to develop a developmental disorder, whether that be developmental dyslexia, specific language impairment, or ASD. I also have a strong interest in psychometrics as it relates to early detection of developmental disorders. Outside the lab, I love to play music and bike around the city.

 

Kiera Cook, Research Assistant, MS-SLL ’18
I am a master’s student in the Speech, Language, and Learning program. I grew up in Woodland Hills, Utah and completed my undergraduate degree in Communication Disorders at Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah). My background is in the nonprofit sector as part of a national initiative to eliminate poverty. I have a special interest in language-based learning disorders and their neurological etiologies and treatments. When I am not in the lab or in the clinic, I love to go on last-minute road trips and train for my someday triathlon.

 

Maggie Boland, MS-SLL student
 I am a master’s student in the Speech, Language, and Learning program.  I was raised in the Western Suburbs of Chicago and completed my Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Hearing Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  The growing fields of neuroscience and neuroplasticity, as well as how research stemming from these fields informs clinical practice, interests me greatly.  My additional research interests include Augmentative and Alternative Communication as well Neurodevelopmental Disorders spanning from early development to adulthood.  In my free time, I enjoy singing (both onstage and in the shower) and perfecting my family’s Italian meatball recipe.

 

Emma Baime, MS-SLL student, Undergraduate ’18
I am a graduate student in the Speech, Language, and Learning program here at NU. I’ve always been fascinated by language, and I love learning more about how humans communicate with others. The LEARN Lab has taught me so much, not only about language development, but also about what it’s like to answer questions through research. When I’m outside of the lab, I can be found performing with my a cappella group, knitting, or spending time with friends.

 

Camille Nuttall, MS-SLL student
I am a master’s student in the Speech, Language, and Learning program. I attended Brigham Young University for my undergraduate degree in Communication Disorders with a minor in Sociology. I developed a love for research as I learned how new research can be applied in clinical settings. I am interested in the neural and cognitive development of language and how environmental variation impacts that development. In addition, I enjoy studying early literacy acquisition. In my free time, I love to run, play board games, water color and cheer on the Cubs.

 

Cadence Bippen, Undergraduate
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders on the Speech Language Pathology track. I am working in the lab through the Early Research Experience Award, and have loved the opportunity to learn so much about research and lab work. I am planning to pursue a Minor in Spanish, and would love to, one day, serve both English- and Spanish-speaking children. Outside of the lab, I mentor elementary-age girls in the Evanston area, and I enjoy listening to music and watching/participating in theatrical performances.

 

Emily Harriott, Undergraduateemily
I am an undergraduate double majoring in Communication Sciences & Disorders and Neuroscience. My interest in communication sciences stems from watching a relative progress from being unable to produce more than a few incomprehensible sounds to speaking in complete sentences in a matter of weeks; I think that transformation is amazing. I’ve been part of the lab since the beginning of my undergraduate career here at Northwestern and have learned so much (various behavioral tests, EEG data collection and analysis, how to write grants/proposals, how to present research to colleagues, problem solving, etc!). and loved every minute of it. Outside the lab, I love to run, bike, read, and watch sports, particularly the New York Yankees… Go ‘Cats!

 

Skylar Ozoh, Undergraduate
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Neuroscience with a Human Behavior and Cognition concentration. I’ve always been interested in understanding the neuroscience of child behavior and development after working with children in various settings. The LEARN Lab gives me the opportunity to learn more about child development and the importance of early intervention. Outside the lab, I tutor elementary school kids in the Books & Breakfast program, sing in the Northwestern Community Ensemble choir and I enjoy biking and listening to music.

 

Kamila Postolowicz, Undergraduate
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Growing up as a Polish and English bilingual, I have always been interested in how the brain organizes and processes language. The vastness of cognition intrigued me and pushed me to gain more knowledge within the field. I am excited to be working in the lab, as I have learned so much being involved in research studies that explore questions that the world does not have answers to yet. Beyond the lab, I enjoy spending time outdoors, traveling to new places, and spending time with friends.

 


Collaborators

Northwestern Center for Audiology, Speech, Language and Learning Clinic

Northwestern Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences

Molly Losh, Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab, Northwestern

Brad Marino, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Northwestern

Megan Roberts, Early Intervention Research Project, Northwestern

Laurie Wakschlag, Developmental Mechanisms Group/DevSci, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine

Sandra Waxman, Infant and Child Development Center, Northwestern

 

 

John Gabrieli, MIT

Nadine Gaab, Children’s Hospital Boston

Pamela Hadley, University of Illinois

Fumiko Hoeft, BrainLENS Lab, UCSF

 


Alumni

Sara Brown, MS-SLL ’17
I am a master’s student in the Speech, Language, and Learning program. I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia. I completed my undergraduate degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. During my time at Northwestern, I have developed a specific interest in language intervention in the pediatric population. Outside of academics I enjoy running along the lake shore path, watching Netflix documentaries, exploring Chicago, and drinking sweet tea.

 

Celia Kaufer, MS-SLL ’17celia2
I am a master’s student in the Speech, Language, and Learning program. I’m originally from Newton, MA, a cute suburb right outside of Boston. For my undergraduate degree I studied Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, where I completed my honors thesis investigating the relationship between acoustic degradation and memory. In my free time, I love playing sports, traveling, reading, and exploring Chicago!

 

Ann Lee, MS-SLL ’18
I am a master’s student in the Speech, Language, and Learning program, and I’m originally from Hong Kong. I completed my undergraduate degrees in Psychology at UCLA and Speech and Hearing Sciences at University of Washington, Seattle. During my studies, I have developed a specific interest in how cognition and language interact in children with language-based learning disabilities. In my spare time, I enjoy watching baking shows and traveling-family vlogs on YouTube with a bag of All Dressed Ruffles.

 

Heather Turnbull, MS-SLL ’18
I am a master’s student interested in childhood language development, particuarly in bilingual populations. My undergraduate degree is in adolescent education and English literature. After graduation, I taught English in Taiwan for a couple of years (ages 6-18) and studied Mandarin Chinese. This experience solidified my interest in understanding how we learn and use language.

 

Shelby Isaacs, Undergraduate ’18
I am an undergraduate on the pre-med track majoring in CSD and minoring in psychology. I became interested in communication sciences because of my love of reading! My favorite thing about the LEARN lab is that there are so many unanswered questions about communication disorders, and the potential to learn something new is infinite. I love being creative and learning new things about skills I use every day. Outside the lab I like to bake, watch sports, and read.

 

Jade Mitchell, Undergraduate ’18
I am an undergraduate majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a double minor in Psychology and African American Studies. I became interested in communication sciences because of my love of music and the voice. My favorite thing about the LEARN lab is that there are so many unexplored areas within language and learning and the LEARN lab allows me to ask some of these unanswered questions. I love exploring questions of language that intersect with the field sociology. Outside the lab I like to play and listen to music, play sports, and read.

 

Kevin Zhang, Undergraduate ’19kevin5
I am an undergraduate student interested in applying research to real-world settings. I find that the research field of communication development and diseases has great potential in helping those affected by communication disorders. One of my projects in the lab, funded by an Undergraduate Research Grant, focuses on determining which form of measurement best predicts language improvement after intervention. I also translate at the China Town health clinic, volunteer at NorthShore Hospital, work at the school athletic center, and run in my free time.