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Martha Bridge Denckla, M.D.
Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 N. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
Phone: (443) 923-9250
Dr. Martha Bridge Denckla is a research scientist and director of the Developmental Cognitive Neurology Clinic at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. She is also a professor of neurology, pediatrics and psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Dr. Denckla graduated summa cum laude from Bryn Mawr College and went on to graduate cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1962, where she trained with Dr. Norman Geschwind in behavioral neurology. Dr. Denckla served residencies at Beth Israel Hospital and Veterans Administration Hospital, both in Boston, as well as Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC. After positions in neurology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and Harvard Medical School, she served as the director of the learning disabilities clinic at the Children's Hospital. She came to the Maryland area in 1982 to serve as chief of the section on autism and related disorders at the developmental neurology branch of the Neurological Disorders Program at the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NIH). She came to Johns Hopkins and KKI in 1987. Dr. Denckla is currently director of the Developmental Cognitive Neurology Clinic at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, and holds the Batza Family Endowed Chair at Kennedy Krieger. She is principal investigator of an NIH-funded research Center P50 HD052121.
Dr. Denckla is a past president of both the International Neuropsychology Society, and also of the Behavioral Neurology Society. Dr. Denckla has been awarded the Lucy G. Moses Prize in Clinical Neurology at Columbia University, the Norman Geschwind Memorial Lectureship at Orton Society, the Rita G. Rudel Memorial Lectureship at Columbia University, the Herbert Birch Memorial Lectureship at the International Neuropsychology Society, the Soriano Guest Lectureship of the American Neurological Association and the Bernard Sachs Lectureship of Child Neurological Society. Most recently, she was the American Academy of Mental Retardation Research Center awardee.
The overarching goal of this Research Center is to examine the reading disabilities (RDs) present in children grades 3-8, including classification, identification, treatment, prevalence, neurocognitive characteristics, as well as the influence of comorbidities (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; ADHD) on reading. While much is known about early reading development and disorders, there has been much less examination of reading and RDs past the early elementary grades. Therefore, there is a critical gap in knowledge about what it takes for a reader to be able to effectively glean information - or learn - from text, even though this is arguably the most important skill needed to achieve academic success after the 3rd grade. Our Research Center seeks to fill this critical gap in knowledge by bringing together a diverse and talented set of researchers and institutions (Kennedy Krieger Institute, Haskins Laboratories, Educational Testing Services (ETS), and University of Maryland) to conduct inter-related projects, the findings from which will allow us to gain a deep understanding of the neurobiological and behavioral processes that influence reading achievement past the early elementary grades. Our overarching hypothesis is that RDs past the early elementary years are heterogeneous in nature, caused by both "bottom up" and "top down" processes. Within this context, we propose projects that I) examine the neurobiological and behavioral development of word-level efficiency, the relationship between word-level and text-level fluency and comprehension, and the influence of different textual demands upon comprehension; II) examine the validity of RTI as a way of identifying children with RDs, and to determine if there are neurocognitive indicators that predict intervention responsiveness; III) determine how the cognitive aspects of ADHD (processing speed, working memory) influence reading comprehension; and IV) to determine the prevalence of different subtypes of RDs by building upon the knowledge gained from Projects I, II, and III, as well as analyses of extant datasets. Thus, within the framework of Project IV, the projects of the Research Center converge in an endeavor that will have significant public health value. Knowing the common subtypes of RDs at what age, as well as the influence of ADHD, will help reveal what the instructional emphasis(es) should be for the older children in our nation, including what risk factors teachers should be looking for.