Research Overview



4525 Scott Avenue, Room 2220 • Campus Box 8111 • St. Louis, MO 63110 • tel:  (314) 362-3317 • fax:  (314) 362-2186

Dr. Steven Petersen:

I have three main areas of behavioral and imaging research: the development of reading, attentional control systems, and the description of large-scale functional networks.

The first focus is on the development of neural mechanisms underlying reading from ages 7 to adulthood with an emphasis on how visual regions in the brain change as people become fluent readers.

The second focus is on identifying and characterizing networks of regions for task organization and executive control. This work has lead to more than 10 publications describing the function of two relatively independent task control networks, one working to maintain task set or goals, and the other to task initiation and adjustment of ongoing performance. This work is primarily in typical and typically developing populations, but also in individuals with autism, Tourette Syndrome, and stroke. This line of studies encouraged us to employ graph theoretic techniques to model relationships in control systems, leading to the study of very large-scale network studies of dozens of brain regions.

Dr. Petersen & Dr. Schlaggar

Dr. Bradley Schlaggar:

I am a pediatric neurologist and developmental cognitive neuroscientist. Clinically, I specialize in disorders of movement and of language/cognition. These clinical interests dovetail entirely with my laboratory investigations. My graduate training was in developmental neurobiology. I studied basic mechanisms in the development and differentiation of neocortical areas, a superb foundation for understanding laboratory investigation of basic developmental mechanisms.

In the late 1990’s, the extant literature offered only a handful of publications that addressed investigating children using functional neuroimaging. The first publication from this effort (Schlaggar et al, 2002), published in Science, demonstrated that school age children and adults, when asked to perform attention demanding tasks involving single words (such as generating a verb relevant to a presented noun), can perform the task with comparable speed and accuracy, but use demonstrably different neural processing strategies to do so. In the intervening years, we have published over 100 additional manuscripts almost entirely addressing the development of cognition using behavioral, functional neuroimaging (fMRI) and functional connectivity (fcMRI) to study the neural mechanisms underlying reading, language, and executive control.

Dr. Petersen showing the Dalai Lama an MRI machine.