School of Humanities and Sciences


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  • Mareike Grotheer

    Mareike Grotheer

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Psychology

    Current Research and Scholarly InterestsMultimodal investigations of the neural substrates of math and reading

    A child’s math and reading abilities have dramatic implications for their future career prospects and socioeconomic outlook. As a result, children suffering from math and reading learning disabilities are at a distinct disadvantage; despite normal intelligence, these disorders make it extremely difficult for afflicted children to acquire math, reading and subsequent academic skills. A better understanding of the neural substrates of math and reading plays a vital role in battling such learning disabilities. At the same time, math and reading also offer a unique opportunity to better understand human brain plasticity. To date, brain plasticity is commonly investigated using animal models which differ substantially in their developmental trajectories compared to human children. In contrast, math and reading are uniquely human abilities that are acquired through extensive learning. My research investigates what are the neural substrates of math and reading, how these substrates emerge as we acquire these essential skills, as well as, how this process goes awry in children with learning disabilities. Addressing these questions requires understanding multiple aspects of the brain, which is why my research is characterized by a multimodal approach that combines functional (fMRI), quantitative (qMRI) and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) with behavioral observations. What makes my work unique, is that I simultaneously investigate both math and reading in meticulous, multimodal single-subject analyses. This work will have implications that reach well beyond math and reading itself. Math and reading are model system of how learning and cultural inventions shape human cognition and the human brain, thereby, allowing me to address fundamental questions in cognitive neuroscience including why the brain is organized the way it is, which components of the brain are static and which change due to learning, and how brain function and structure concert human cognition.