NVLD Studies

The NVLD Project MRI Study of Children & Adolescents (PI: Margolis, Cognitive Development & Neuroimaging Lab)

This study aims to determine whether children with non-verbal learning disability (NVLD) show altered patterns of brain structure, function, and connectivity relative to typically developing children. A discrepancy between verbal and spatial abilities is a core feature of NVLD, and we previously found that a greater verbal-spatial discrepancy is associated with increased thinning and decreased function in fronto-parietal and temporal regions in healthy individuals (Margolis et al., 2013; Margolis et al., 2017). We hypothesize that these associations will be magnified in children with NVLD; such findings would help validate NVLD as a distinct diagnosis.

Next Steps: One next step is to compare our brain and behavioral measures in children with NVLD to children with high-functioning autism. Such data will allow the identification of brain and behavioral deficits that are common and dissimilar among and between the two disorders.

Infant Behavior Study (Co-PIs: Beebe and Margolis, Communication Sciences Lab)

We are studying whether specific patterns of non-verbal communication behavior observed in infants is associated with or indicative of NVLD. Our study aims to address the following research questions:

  1. Can we identify individual differences in infants' communicative behavior based solely on the infants' behavior? 
  2. Might such differences predict later outcomes that are analogous to or precursors of communication difficulties often observed in children with NVLD?

Next Steps: Our long-term goal is to better specify the nature of friendship difficulties in young adults with NVLD. Toward that goal, we aim to identify the social behaviors that may underlie friendship difficulties in young adults from a community (non–NVLD) sample, and examine whether there are precursors in infancy of these social behaviors. This project uses a longitudinal cohort of mother-infant pairs (assessed in infancy and young adulthood) from a low-risk community (non–NVLD) sample of 132 dyads (Beebe Longitudinal Cohort II, 1992–1996). The infancy data of this sample are well-characterized, videotaped mother-infant interactions coded with second-by-second measures of mother and infant attention, emotion, orientation, and touch. Attachment security was assessed when infants were one year old.