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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

Anna Banaszkiewicz

Anna Banaszkiewicz completed her PhD at the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw, Poland, where she investigated functional and structural brain reorganization in hearing learners of sign language. After receiving her degree she continued the research of bimodal bilingualism and sign language processing in hearing and Deaf signers, focusing on the effects of age of language acquisition and proficiency. She is also interested in the cognitive aspects of signed communication and Deaf education. As a new post-doctoral member of the Brain Development Lab she hopes to contribute to better understanding of mechanisms underlying reading in Deaf and hard of hearing children.


Neelima Wagley

Neelima Wagley is a post-doctoral researcher studying language and reading development using multimodal neuroimaging methodologies such as fMRI, fNIRS, and MEG. She is interested in the cognitive and neural architecture of reading and the development of children’s word reading and reading comprehension abilities. Specifically, her program of research focuses on how early bilingual acquisition and varying language contexts influence children’s emerging literacy skills, brain development, and academic outcomes. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan.

Vanessa Rosales Cerda

Vanessa Rosales Cerda received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research program incorporates both ERPs and fMRI to understand the neural basis of arithmetic processing in Spanish-English bilingual children and adults. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the relationship between the complex dynamics of a bilingual’s language background and how arithmetic is processed across languages. Her long-term research goal is to become a leader in the area of bilingual STEM cognition, spearheading advancements in bilingual education and neurocognitive development.

Doctoral students

Alisha Compton

Alisha Compton is a doctoral student in the Brain Development Lab studying educational neuroscience. Her research focuses on investigating the brain and behavior mechanisms underlying reading skill and anxiety symptoms. She was previously a teacher and received her MS in Education from Johns Hopkins University.


Clara Plutzer

Clara received her undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in American Sign Language from New York University. There, she worked in a cognitive development lab and grew her interest in research by conducting an honors thesis. She hopes to continue to learn new skills in this lab, with the goal of attending graduate school.

Rachael Rice

Rachael Rice received her undergraduate degree from Bard College in Psychology and is working on her Masters in Early Education and Special Education. She is currently working on the project of Neurocognition of Literacy in Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She plans to apply her knowledge and skills gained from the Brain Development Lab to pursue a PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology.

Undergraduate honors students

Zoe Dai

Zoe Dai is an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University majoring in Child Development and Biology. She is currently working on an honors thesis examining the common and distinct mechanisms underlying individual differences in reading skills and anxiety symptoms in elementary school-age children. She hopes to continue her academic career in clinical psychology and apply the knowledge she learned from the Brain Development Lab in future studies.

Visiting scholars

Yasin Arslan

Yasin Arslan is a doctoral student and Postgraduate Teaching Assistant (PGTA) in Psychology and Human Development at IOE – Faculty of Education and Society, University College London (UCL), and a research assistant at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London. He is examining the role of Educational Neuroscience in teacher training in the UK. As a former Teacher of the Deaf, his research interests also include brain mechanisms of deaf and hard-of-hearing and neuro-diverse children for academic outcomes, using non-invasive neuroimaging modalities such as fMRI and EEG.