Current Lab Members



James Booth

James R. Booth is the Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor in the Department of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. The overall goals of his research are to understand the brain mechanisms of the development of reading, math and scientific reasoning in typical and atypical populations. Prof. Booth has been continuously funded for close to two decades and has published extensively in diverse journals. He has served in various roles both within and outside of the university, such as departmental chairperson, review panel member and associate editor. Prof Booth aims to facilitate the interaction between the fields of cognition, neuroscience and education.

Post-doctoral research associates


Macarena Suarez-Pellicioni

Macarena Suarez Pellicioni a post-doctoral researcher for the Math Cognition Project. She received her PhD from the University of Barcelona (Spain), on the topic of math anxiety, using ERPs. Currently, her research focuses on the brain correlates of longitudinal changes in math performance in children, using fMRI. She is interested in both cognitive and emotional/attitudinal factors affecting mathematical performance and their impact on the brain. She is also interested in how general-domain, math-specific and environmental/emotional aspects interact throughout development and their impact on children’s math learning and brain. Moreover, she is especially interested in investigating behavioral/brain markers that would be useful to predict improvement or learning deficits over time.


Yael Weiss-Zruya

Yael Weiss is a neuro-cognitive researcher and a certified speech-language pathologist. She is interested in typical and atypical brain development of language and literacy skills in different populations, including children and adults with specific language impairments, dyslexia, learning disabilities, and deaf and hard of hearing. Her work has focused on skill related brain mechanisms involved in reading, both in children and adults, using an fMRI imaging technique. In her current projects, she examines early specialization of different brain regions for distinct linguistic processes (including semantic, phonological and morpho-syntactic processes) in pre-school children with different levels of language abilities. In addition, she examines the reading-related brain mechanisms in deaf and hard of hearing children depending on their preferred way of communication: oral or sign language.

Doctoral students


Jessica Younger

Jessica Younger is interested in determining neural correlates of individual differences in academic achievement. Her work has focused on how we learn to read, both by studying the development of reading systems over time in children and teaching adults to read a new writing system. She is now using a new technique called transcranial direct current stimulation to see if the learning process can be accelerated and whether this will lead to lasting neural changes. Her goal is to understand the learning process to better inform new methods to help those who struggle to read.


Jin Wang

Jin Wang is a doctoral student in the Brain Developmental Lab. She is interested in the neural basis of language and reading development using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During her doctoral studies, she will focus on how brain activation during language processing is related to reading skills in pre-school children and how early brain activation predicts the later reading performance.



Hannah Cweigenberg

Hannah Cweigenberg received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, she is the research coordinator for the Early Language Project and contributes to both administrative duties in the Brain Development Lab as well as data collection. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.


Alyssa Lucio

Alyssa Lucio graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She is currently the project coordinator for the Early Language Project. She hopes to further her education with a graduate degree in the coming years.


Rachel Watkins

Rachel Watkins received her bachelors of science degree in Child Development and Psychology from Vanderbilt University in 2013 and her Doctor of Audiology degree in 2017 from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She is a research assistant involved with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) project, which examines the brain mechanisms underlying skilled reading in children using various communication modes. Her research interests include multisensory integration and cognition in children with hearing loss. She is especially interested in how multiple modality training can be utilized to positively affect speech-language and social cognitive development.


Marisa Lytle

Marisa Lytle graduated from Vanderbilt University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Neuroscience and Child Development. She is currently a research assistant in the Brain Development Lab and is also involved in a project that aims to freely share our neuroimaging data. She hopes to pursue a M.D. specializing in Pediatric Psychiatry.