Scientific Committee

Virginia Wise Berninger

  • Designation: University of Washington
  • Country: USA


Following 9 years of teaching in inner city, suburban, and rural public schools (5 years general education and 4 years special education), Virginia Wise Berninger completed a Ph.D. in Psychology at Johns Hopkins University in 1981 (specialization in developmental psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, social psychology, psychobiology, and quantitative psychology) and predoctoral and postdoctoral training in clinical psychology at Boston Children’s Hospital from 1980-1982. Dr. Berninger was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School (Psychiatry) from 1981-1983, the faculty of Tufts New England Medical School (Physiatry) from 1983-1986, and the faculty of the University of Washington from 1983 to 2016 (Educational Psychology and Learning Sciences and Human Development). At the University of Washington, the courses she taught included topics in neuropsychology and educational neuroscience; and she was the Principal Investigator of multiple NIH grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for 22 years; these included grants on writing disabilities, a multidisciplinary research center on learning disabilities (brain imaging, genetics, diagnostics, and intervention), and a longitudinal study of typical reading and writing development. She was also a co-principal investigator of a grant on math from the US Department of Education and a grant on dyslexia from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation. In addition, she has been an investigator on grants from NIH on the genetics of dyslexia. As a Professor Emerita at the University of Washington, she has remained professionally active in helping former Ph.D. students and colleagues publish 29 articles (+ 1 waiting for final acceptance) based on data collected on the grants; 12 of these are on the brain and will be featured in her presentation at the World Neurology Conference.  She has also authored or co-authored 8 invited book chapters, revised User Guides for two research-based tests, revised five books on translating research, including brain research, into psychological and educational practice, and continued to present virtually at conferences and in webinars.


First, an overview of brain evidence for four language systems (by ear, by mouth, by eye, and by hand) and multi-leveled language systems (subwordàwordàsyntaxàtext) will be presented. Second, behavioral evidence for defining and diagnosing three specific learning disabilities—Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, and OWL LD—based on language systems and levels of language will be described. Third, earlier brain imaging paradigms based on specific locations in the brain will be illustrated for comparing typically developing literacy learners and children or youth with Dyslexia or Dysgraphia both before and after those with Dyslexia or Dysgraphia have instructional intervention. Finally, a newer brain imaging paradigm that compares brain connectivity among brain locations will be illustrated with research on levels of language in the reading brain or writing brain and on the brain’s response to reading or writing instruction.  The results of the brain connectivity studies will be discussed for their scientific significance and their translation into practice.

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