News Release

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

NIH announces funding for new learning disabilities research centers

Centers in Boulder, Houston, Tallahassee, and Seattle.

Funding for four centers to conduct research on the causes and treatment of learning disabilities in children and adolescents has been provided by the National Institutes of Health.

The centers were established in 1989 by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The NICHD Learning Disabilities Research Centers are supported by the institute's Child Development and Behavior Branch. Funding for the centers is provided on a competitive basis and was previously awarded in 2006. Learning disabilities affect the way the brain processes information and can affect speaking, listening, reading or writing, or mathematics ability.

The award recipients are:

  • Colorado Learning Disabilities Research Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Texas Center for Learning Disabilities at the University of Houston
  • NIH Multidisciplinary Learning Disabilities Center at Florida State University, Tallahassee
  • The Center for Defining and Treating Specific Learning Disabilities in Written Language at the University of Washington, Seattle

"The centers are a key part of the NICHD's effort to understand learning disabilities and improve on their diagnosis and treatment, and serve as the cornerstone of our investment in learning disabilities research," said Brett Miller, Ph.D., director of the Reading, Writing, and Related Learning Disabilities Program in the NICHD Child Development and Behavior Branch.

Miller said the centers would increase their emphasis on understanding how individuals learn to write and the best ways to teach writing to both learning disabled and typically achieving children. In the past, efforts to understand learning disabilities have concentrated more heavily on dyslexia, or reading impairment.

The new centers will also emphasize reading comprehension — how children understand what they read. Previously, researchers emphasized an understanding of how children decipher printed text, known as decoding.

"Researchers have made great progress in understanding how children learn to read text and how to help them when they have difficulties," Dr. Miller said. "But it's also important that we learn how individuals develop understanding of what they read, and so the new centers will also focus on reading comprehension."

As they report their new findings, the centers will also work to convey their findings to the public, through the media, community groups, and school systems.

"It's extremely important to provide timely information, based on research findings and recommendations, to families, educators, and other researchers, to assist them in their efforts to help children learn and make the most of their abilities," Dr. Miller said.

About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s website at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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