Stephen A Petrill

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, United States

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Publications (142)431.66 Total impact

  • Brooke Soden, Micaela E Christopher, Jacqueline Hulslander, Richard K Olson, Laurie Cutting, Janice M Keenan, Lee A Thompson, Sally J Wadsworth, Erik G Willcutt, Stephen A Petrill
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    ABSTRACT: Reading comprehension is a foundational academic skill and significant attention has focused on reading development. This report is the first to examine the stability and change in genetic and environmental influences on reading comprehension across Grades 1 to 6. This developmental range is particularly important because it encompasses the timespan in which most children move from learning how to read to using reading for learning. Longitudinal simplex models were fitted separately for two independent twin samples (N = 706; N = 976). Results suggested that the shared environment contributed to variance in early but not later reading. Instead, stability in reading development was largely mediated by continuous genetic influences. Thus, although reading is clearly a learned skill and the environment remains important for reading development, individual differences in reading comprehension appear to be also influenced by a core of genetic stability that persists through the developmental course of reading.
    PLoS ONE 01/2015; 10(1):e0113807. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Working memory has been consistently associated with mathematics achievement, although the etiology of these relations remains poorly understood. The present study examined the genetic and environmental underpinnings of math story problem solving, timed calculation, and untimed calculation alongside working memory components in 12-year-old monozygotic (n = 105) and same-sex dizygotic (n = 143) twin pairs. Results indicated significant phenotypic correlation between each working memory component and all mathematics outcomes (r = 0.18–0.33). Additive genetic influences shared between the visuo-spatial sketchpad and mathematics achievement were significant, accounting for roughly 89% of the observed correlation. In addition, genetic covariance was found between the phonological loop and math story problem solving. In contrast, despite there being a significant observed relationship between phonological loop and timed and untimed calculations, there was no significant genetic or environmental covariance between the phonological loop and timed or untimed calculation skills. Further analyses indicated that genetic overlap between the visuo-spatial sketchpad and math story problem solving and math fluency was distinct from general genetic factors, whereas g, phonological loop, and mathematics shared generalist genes. Thus, although each working memory component was related to mathematics, the etiology of their relationships may be distinct.
    Intelligence 11/2014; 47:54–62. · 2.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background Emerging work suggests that academic achievement may be influenced by the management of affect as well as through efficient information processing of task demands. In particular, mathematical anxiety has attracted recent attention because of its damaging psychological effects and potential associations with mathematical problem solving and achievement. This study investigated the genetic and environmental factors contributing to the observed differences in the anxiety people feel when confronted with mathematical tasks. In addition, the genetic and environmental mechanisms that link mathematical anxiety with math cognition and general anxiety were also explored. Methods Univariate and multivariate quantitative genetic models were conducted in a sample of 514 12-year-old twin siblings. ResultsGenetic factors accounted for roughly 40% of the variation in mathematical anxiety, with the remaining being accounted for by child-specific environmental factors. Multivariate genetic analyses suggested that mathematical anxiety was influenced by the genetic and nonfamilial environmental risk factors associated with general anxiety and additional independent genetic influences associated with math-based problem solving. Conclusions The development of mathematical anxiety may involve not only exposure to negative experiences with mathematics, but also likely involves genetic risks related to both anxiety and math cognition. These results suggest that integrating cognitive and affective domains may be particularly important for mathematics and may extend to other areas of academic achievement.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 03/2014; 55(9). · 5.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Basic intellectual abilities of quantity and numerosity estimation have been detected across animal species. Such abilities are referred to as ‘number sense’. For human species, individual differences in number sense are detectable early in life, persist in later development, and relate to general intelligence. The origins of these individual differences are unknown. To address this question, we conducted the first large-scale genetically sensitive investigation of number sense, assessing numerosity discrimination abilities in 837 pairs of monozygotic and 1422 pairs of dizygotic 16-year-old twin pairs. Univariate genetic analysis of the twin data revealed that number sense is modestly heritable (32%), with individual differences being largely explained by non-shared environmental influences (68%) and no contribution from shared environmental factors. Sex-Limitation model fitting revealed no differences between males and females in the etiology of individual differences in number sense abilities. We also carried out Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis (GCTA) that estimates the population variance explained by additive effects of DNA differences among unrelated individuals. For 1118 unrelated individuals in our sample with genotyping information on 1.7 million DNA markers, GCTA estimated zero heritability for number sense, unlike other cognitive abilities in the same twin study where the GCTA heritability estimates were about 25%. The low heritability of number sense, observed in this study, is consistent with the directional selection explanation whereby additive genetic variance for evolutionary important traits is reduced.
    Intelligence 03/2014; 43:35–46. · 2.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spatial ability predicts performance in mathematics and eventual expertise in science, technology and engineering. Spatial skills have also been shown to rely on neuronal networks partially shared with mathematics. Understanding the nature of this association can inform educational practices and intervention for mathematical underperformance. Using data on two aspects of spatial ability and three domains of mathematical ability from 4174 pairs of 12-year-old twins, we examined the relative genetic and environmental contributions to variation in spatial ability and to its relationship with different aspects of mathematics. Environmental effects explained most of the variation in spatial ability (~70%) and in mathematical ability (~60%) at this age, and the effects were the same for boys and girls. Genetic factors explained about 60% of the observed relationship between spatial ability and mathematics, with a substantial portion of the relationship explained by common environmental influences (26% and 14% by shared and non-shared environments respectively). These findings call for further research aimed at identifying specific environmental mediators of the spatial-mathematics relationship. About a third of the variation in spatial ability at age 12 is explained by genetic factors; a little less than half of the variation in mathematics at this age is genetic. We find no sex differences in the genetic and environmental influences (either in magnitude or type) on mathematical and spatial variation at age 12. The observed overlap between spatial ability and mathematics is substantial (r > .40). Approximately 60% of this overlap is explained by common genetic effects, with 40% of the overlap due to environmental experience.
    Developmental Science 01/2014; · 3.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dissecting how genetic and environmental influences impact on learning is helpful for maximizing numeracy and literacy. Here we show, using twin and genome-wide analysis, that there is a substantial genetic component to children's ability in reading and mathematics, and estimate that around one half of the observed correlation in these traits is due to shared genetic effects (so-called Generalist Genes). Thus, our results highlight the potential role of the learning environment in contributing to differences in a child's cognitive abilities at age twelve.
    Nature Communications 01/2014; 5:4204. · 10.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The existing literature on language outcomes in children born prematurely focuses almost exclusively on standardized test scores rather than discourse-level abilities. This study looked longitudinally at school-age language outcomes and potential moderating variables for a group of twins born prematurely versus a control group of twins, analyzing both standardized test results and language sample data from the population-based Western Reserve Reading Project (WRRP). Fifty-seven children born prematurely, at ≤32 weeks or <1500 g, were compared to 57 children born at full term and matched for age, gender, race, and parental education. Data included discourse-level language samples and standardized test results, collected at average ages 7, 8, and 10. The language samples were analyzed to yield a number of semantic and syntactic measures that were consolidated via factor analysis. Regression models showed significant differences between the two groups for standardized test results, although the mean score for both groups fell in the normal range. For the discourse-level language measures, however, differences never reached statistical significance. Parent education was significantly associated with improved standardized test scores. These findings suggest that in the absence of frank neurological impairment, sophisticated semantic and syntactic skills may be relatively intact in the discourse-level language of children born prematurely. Implications for assessment, particularly the potential role of attention and executive function in standardized testing tasks, are reviewed.
    Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research 10/2013; · 1.97 Impact Factor
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    Stephen A Petrill, Christopher W Bartlett, Clancy Blair
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    ABSTRACT: This special issue in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry presents several invited articles examining gene-environment interplay in child development and psychopathology. Models of gene-environment interplay have been exhaustively discussed in the literature, including an important contribution by Rutter, Moffitt and Caspi (2006) published in this journal.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 10/2013; 54(10):1029. · 5.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous studies have examined gene × environment interactions (G × E) in cognitive and behavioral domains. However, these studies have been limited in that they have not been able to directly assess differential patterns of gene expression in the human brain. Here, we assessed G × E interactions using two publically available datasets to assess if DNA variation is associated with post-mortem brain gene expression changes based on smoking behavior, a biobehavioral construct that is part of a complex system of genetic and environmental influences. We conducted an expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) study on two independent human brain gene expression datasets assessing G × E for selected psychiatric genes and smoking status. We employed linear regression to model the significance of the Gene × Smoking interaction term, followed by meta-analysis across datasets. Overall, we observed that the effect of DNA variation on gene expression is moderated by smoking status. Expression of 16 genes was significantly associated with single nucleotide polymorphisms that demonstrated G × E effects. The strongest finding (p = 1.9 × 10(-11) ) was neurexin 3-alpha (NRXN3), a synaptic cell-cell adhesion molecule involved in maintenance of neural connections (such as the maintenance of smoking behavior). Other significant G × E associations include four glutamate genes. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate G × E effects within the human brain. In particular, this study implicated NRXN3 in the maintenance of smoking. The effect of smoking on NRXN3 expression and downstream behavior is different based upon SNP genotype, indicating that DNA profiles based on SNPs could be useful in understanding the effects of smoking behaviors. These results suggest that better measurement of psychiatric conditions, and the environment in post-mortem brain studies may yield an important avenue for understanding the biological mechanisms of G × E interactions in psychiatry.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 08/2013; · 5.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: IQ predicts many measures of life success, as well as trajectories of brain development. Prolonged cortical thickening observed in individuals with high IQ might reflect an extended period of synaptogenesis and high environmental sensitivity or plasticity. We tested this hypothesis by examining the timing of changes in the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on IQ as a function of IQ score. We found that individuals with high IQ show high environmental influence on IQ into adolescence (resembling younger children), whereas individuals with low IQ show high heritability of IQ in adolescence (resembling adults), a pattern consistent with an extended sensitive period for intellectual development in more-intelligent individuals. The pattern held across a cross-sectional sample of almost 11,000 twin pairs and a longitudinal sample of twins, biological siblings, and adoptive siblings.
    Psychological Science 07/2013; · 4.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and mathematics ability are associated, but little is known about the genetic and environmental influences underlying this association. METHODS: Data came from more than 6,000 twelve-year-old twin pairs from the UK population-representative Twins Early Development Study. Parents rated each twin's behaviour using a DSM-IV-based 18-item questionnaire of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms. Mathematics tests based on the UK National Curriculum were completed by each twin. The twins also completed standardised tests of reading and general cognitive ability. Multivariate twin model fitting was applied. RESULTS: Inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms were highly heritable (67% and 73% respectively). Mathematics ability was moderately heritable (46%). Mathematics ability and inattentiveness showed a significantly greater phenotypic correlation (rp = -.26) and genetic correlation (rA = -.41) than mathematics ability and hyperactivity-impulsivity (rp = -.18; rA = -.22). The genetic correlation between inattentiveness and mathematics ability was largely independent from hyperactivity-impulsivity, and was only partially accounted for by genetic influences related to reading and general cognitive ability. CONCLUSIONS: Results revealed the novel finding that mathematics ability shows significantly stronger phenotypic and genetic associations with inattentiveness than with hyperactivity-impulsivity. Genetic associations between inattentiveness and mathematics ability could only partially be accounted for by hyperactivity-impulsivity, reading and general cognitive ability. Results suggest that mathematics ability is associated with ADHD symptoms largely because it shares genetic risk factors with inattentiveness, and provide further evidence for considering inattentiveness and hyperactivity-impulsivity separately. DNA markers for ADHD symptoms (especially inattentiveness) may also be candidate risk factors for mathematics ability and vice versa.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 06/2013; · 5.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To contribute to the modest body of work examining the home literacy environment (HLE) and emergent literacy outcomes for children with disabilities, this study addressed two aims: (a) to determine the unique contributions of the HLE on print knowledge of preschool children with language impairment and (b) to identify whether specific child characteristics (oral language ability, print interest) moderated these relations. The sample consisted of 119 preschool children with language impairment. HLE was conceptualised as frequency of storybook reading and literacy teaching during book reading. Frequency of storybook reading was a unique predictor of print knowledge, which is consistent with research on children with typical language. Literacy teaching did not predict print knowledge, which diverges from research on children with typical language. No interactions between the HLE and child characteristics were significant, but language ability and print interest play a role in understanding individual differences in literacy development.
    Journal of Research in Reading 06/2013; · 1.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence suggests that the 7-repeat variant of a 48 base pair variable number tandem repeat polymorphism in the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene may be associated with the development of attention problems. A parallel literature suggests that genes linked to dopaminergic functioning may be associated with differential sensitivity to context, such that the direction of the genetic effect is hypothesized to vary across environmental experience. Guided by these literatures, we used data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development to consider (a) whether individual differences in children's inattention problems across middle childhood are predicted by gene-environment interactions between the DRD4 gene 7-repeat polymorphism and children's experiences of maternal sensitivity across infancy and early childhood and (b) the degree to which such interactions are consistent with the differential-sensitivity model. Largely consistent with the hypothesized model, gene-environment interactions indicated that, in the context of insensitive early maternal care, the DRD4 7-repeat polymorphism was associated with higher levels of inattention. Although somewhat less consistently, there was also evidence that, in the context of highly sensitive care, the 7-repeat polymorphism was associated with lower levels of inattention. Overall, the magnitude of the absolute genetic effect increased over time, as children's inattention trajectories diverged.
    Development and Psychopathology 05/2013; 25(2):291-306. · 4.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The development of reading skills in typical students is commonly described as a rapid growth across early grades of active reading education, with a slowing down of growth as active instruction tapers. This study examined the extent to which genetics and environments influence these growth rates. Participants were 371 twin pairs, aged approximately 6 through 12, from the Western Reserve Reading Project. Development of word-level reading, reading comprehension, and rapid naming was examined using genetically sensitive latent quadratic growth curve modeling. Results confirmed the developmental trajectory described in the phenotypic literature. Furthermore, the same shared environmental influences were related to early reading skills and subsequent growth, but genetic influences on these factors were unique.
    Child Development 04/2013; · 4.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Intervention studies indicate that children's early child-care experiences can be leveraged to foster their development of effective self-regulation skills. It is less clear whether typical child-care experiences play a similar role. In addition, evidence suggests that children with a common variant of the DRD4 gene (48-bp VNTR, 7-repeat) may be more sensitive to their experiences than those without this variant. Using data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, we considered the degree to which children's early child-care experiences-quantity, quality, and type-were associated with their attention and self-regulation abilities in prekindergarten, and, in particular, whether these relations were conditional on DRD4 genotype. G × E interactions were evident across multiple neuropsychological and observational measures of children's attention and self-regulation abilities. Across most outcome measures, DRD4 7+ children spending fewer hours in child care showed more effective attention/self-regulation abilities. For those without a copy of the DRD4 7-repeat allele, such associations were typically null. The results for child-care quality and type indicated no interactions with genotype; the main-effect associations were somewhat inconsistent. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol.
    Developmental Psychobiology 03/2013; · 3.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reading disability (RD) and math disability (MD) frequently co-occur, but the etiology of this comorbidity is not well understood. Groups with RD only (N = 241), MD only (N = 183), and RD + MD (N = 188) and a control group with neither disorder (N = 411) completed a battery of measures of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, social and academic functioning, and 10 neuropsychological processes. Groups with RD only, MD only, and RD + MD were significantly impaired versus the control group on nearly all measures, and the group with RD + MD was more impaired than the groups with MD and RD alone on measures of internalizing psychopathology, academic functioning, and 7 of 10 neuropsychological constructs. Multiple regression analyses of the neuropsychological measures indicated that deficits in reading and math were associated with shared weaknesses in working memory, processing speed, and verbal comprehension. In contrast, reading difficulties were uniquely associated with weaknesses in phoneme awareness and naming speed, and math deficits were uniquely associated with weaknesses in set shifting. These results support multiple-deficit neuropsychological models of RD and MD and suggest that RD and MD are distinct but related disorders that co-occur because of shared neuropsychological weaknesses in working memory, processing speed, and verbal comprehension.
    Journal of learning disabilities 02/2013; · 1.77 Impact Factor
  • Zhe Wang, Nan Chen, Stephen A Petrill, Kirby Deater-Deckard
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    ABSTRACT: We examined broad dimensions of children's personalities (total n = 1056; age = 3.5 to 12 years) based on observers' perceptions following a few hours of structured interaction. Siblings' behaviors during a two-hour cognitive assessment in the home were rated separately by two different observers. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses clearly revealed a two-factor solution in three different samples. There was correspondence between parent-rated temperament and the observer-rated factors. Cross-sectional analyses indicated lower Plasticity among older children and higher Stability among older children. Sex differences were negligible. Plasticity and Stability were correlated in the .2 to .3 range. Most of the sibling similarity in the Plasticity was due to additive genetic influences, whereas most sibling similarity in Stability was attributable to shared environmental influences. The findings implicate a biometric factor structure to childhood personality that fits well with emerging bio-social theories of personality development.
    European Journal of Personality 01/2013; 27(1):96-105. · 2.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about the neural correlates of expository text comprehension. In this study, we sought to identify neural networks underlying expository text comprehension, how those networks change over the course of comprehension, and whether information central to the overall meaning of the text is functionally distinct from peripheral information. Seventeen adult subjects read expository passages while being scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). By convolving phrase onsets with the hemodynamic response function (HRF), we were able to identify regions that increase and decrease in activation over the course of passage comprehension. We found that expository text comprehension relies on the co-activation of the semantic control network and regions in the posterior midline previously associated with mental model updating and integration [posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and precuneus (PCU)]. When compared to single word comprehension, left PCC and left Angular Gyrus (AG) were activated only for discourse-level comprehension. Over the course of comprehension, reliance on the same regions in the semantic control network increased, while a parietal region associated with attention [intraparietal sulcus (IPS)] decreased. These results parallel previous findings in narrative comprehension that the initial stages of mental model building require greater visuospatial attention processes, while maintenance of the model increasingly relies on semantic integration regions. Additionally, we used an event-related analysis to examine phrases central to the text's overall meaning vs. peripheral phrases. It was found that central ideas are functionally distinct from peripheral ideas, showing greater activation in the PCC and PCU, while over the course of passage comprehension, central and peripheral ideas increasingly recruit different parts of the semantic control network. The finding that central information elicits greater response in mental model updating regions than peripheral ideas supports previous behavioral models on the cognitive importance of distinguishing textual centrality.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 01/2013; 7:853. · 2.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The current study examined the association between frequency of storybook reading and emergent literacy in 212 children at risk for language impairment, assessed during the fall semester of kindergarten. Measures included parent-reported storybook reading, as well as direct assessments of print knowledge, letter awareness, and expressive vocabulary. Results suggested nonsignificant to moderate (r = .11 to .25) correlations between frequency of storybook reading and child emergent literacy across the entire range of environment and ability. Quantile regression results suggested that the association was highest at low frequency of storybook reading, particularly for print knowledge, approaching r = .50. Moreover, the association between frequency of storybook reading and emergent literacy was highest at higher levels of emergent literacy for print knowledge, but particularly for letter naming, approaching r = .80. These results suggest that in children with language difficulties, the relationship between aspects of the home environment and emergent literacy is conditional on the quality of the home environment as well as the child's proficiency in emergent literacy skills.
    Journal of learning disabilities 12/2012; · 1.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Russian School Twin Registry (RSTR) was established in 2012, supported by a grant from the Government of the Russian Federation. The main aim of the registry is to contribute to Progress in Education through Gene-Environment Studies (PROGRESS). The formation of the registry is ongoing and it is expected that most schools in the Russian Federation (approximately 50,000 schools) will contribute data to the registry. With a total of 13.7 million students in Grades 1-11 (ages 7-18), the potential number of twin pairs exceeds 100,000. Apart from the large sample size and its representative nature, the RSTR has one unique feature: in collaboration with the International Advisory Committee to the Registry, genetically sensitive cross-cultural investigations are planned, aided by the use of the common assessment instruments. Other strengths of the registry include the assessment of a large sample of non-twin school children, including those studying in the same classes as the twins in the registry. It is hoped that the RSTR will provide an important research platform for national and international educationally relevant research.
    Twin Research and Human Genetics 12/2012; · 1.92 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
431.66 Total Impact Points


  • 2007–2014
    • The Ohio State University
      • • Department of Human Development and Family Science
      • • Department of Psychology
      • • College of Education and Human Ecology
      Columbus, Ohio, United States
  • 2013
    • Illinois State University
      State College, Pennsylvania, United States
    • Nationwide Children's Hospital
      • Battelle Center for Mathematical Medicine
      Columbus, Ohio, United States
  • 2012–2013
    • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
      • Department of Speech and Hearing Science
      Urbana, Illinois, United States
  • 1999–2013
    • King's College London
      • • MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre
      • • Institute of Psychiatry
      London, ENG, United Kingdom
  • 2011–2012
    • University of Colorado at Boulder
      • • Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
      • • Institute for Behavioral Genetics (IBG)
      Boulder, Colorado, United States
  • 2007–2012
    • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
      • Department of Psychology
      Blacksburg, VA, United States
  • 1997–2011
    • Pennsylvania State University
      • Department of Biobehavioral Health
      University Park, MD, United States
  • 2010
    • The Mind Research Network
      Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
    • Florida State University
      • Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR)
      Tallahassee, FL, United States
  • 2004–2005
    • University of Oregon
      • Department of Psychology
      Eugene, OR, United States
  • 1998–2002
    • Wesleyan University
      • Department of Psychology
      Middletown, Connecticut, United States
  • 1993–1999
    • Case Western Reserve University
      • Division of Psychology
      Cleveland, Ohio, United States
  • 1996
    • London Research Institute
      Londinium, England, United Kingdom