From her initial career aspirations to become an elementary school teacher, Dr. Meaghan Perdue, PhD, became interested in research during an undergraduate psychology course. Perdue’s interests in language, reading, and brain development led her on a 10-year research path from Boston, Mass. to the Developmental Neuroimaging Lab at the Alberta Children’s Hospital with principal investigator Dr. Catherine Lebel, PhD.
In Canada, approximately two to four children in every classroom struggle with the most common reading disability, dyslexia. Using imaging techniques that were developed for a medical setting, Perdue is examining the brain structure of children learning to read. Uncovering the relationships of neurochemistry and reading will contribute to the scientific understanding of brain development. This knowledge will allow for reading disabilities to be identified earlier on in childhood.
“This research will give us a much better understanding of the actual biological mechanisms that support learning to read and skilled reading,” says Perdue, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Radiology, Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).
Children are likely born at risk for reading difficulties but will often not be identified until Grade 3 after persistently struggling in school. “We're hoping that by learning more about the brain, we can eventually incorporate an understanding of the brain traits to help to identify kids earlier on in preschool,” says Perdue.
“Remediation of reading ability in children is most successful when the intervention is received in early childhood.”
Meaghan Perdue examines the brain structure of children learning to read in order to help identify reading disabilities like dyslexia earlier on in childhood.
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
“Meaghan is an accomplished neuroscientist, and an emerging star in the field of brain and reading development,” says Lebel. “She is now well positioned to continue her impactful work at the University of Calgary.”
The two-year Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship will allow for Perdue to work closely with Lebel and collaborator Dr. Ashley Harris, PhD, to apply additional advanced imaging techniques to her study. She will also be able to dig deeper into her research questions leveraging data previously collected in the lab by Lebel.
“I’m looking forward to connecting with the broader Killam community, which is a prestigious group of scholars at all levels across Canada,” she says. “I am honoured to be a part of this research community, and what it has to offer is very exciting.”
Perdue earned both her MS (2018) and her PhD (2021) in developmental psychology from the University of Connecticut. During her PhD she was awarded the 2020 Isabelle Y. Liberman Award which recognizes and encourages young researchers who are investigating topics related to cognitive science and reading. She is an Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholar, active mentor, science communicator, and published peer-reviewed author.