When University of Saskatchewan PhD graduate student Jacqueline Cummine sees someone with a book, she isn’t so much interested in what the person is reading as in how the person is reading.
Cummine studies the processes of turning print into speech. “The basic reading processes are a vital component in our overall understanding of language function,” she says. “My research provides some of the basic building blocks for understanding complex language processes.”
While in her first year of a master’s program Cummine began an exploration of the relationship between working memory and the phonetic decoding processes in order to better explain the independence of basic reading development. In the fall of 2006, she was promoted into a PhD program and awarded a CGSR Dean’s Scholarship.
Looking at both behavioural and neurobiological aspects of language acquisition and transmission, Cummine studies the importance of letter strings and whole word processing in the examination of basic and impaired language processes. Impaired language processes might include dyslexia, brain injury or other abnormalities.
“Individuals who have suffered from early acquired brain injury or developmental abnormality are at a higher risk of developing reading impairments,” explains Cummine. “Understanding the underlying processes is crucial to the assessment, diagnosis and management of these deficits and help in predicting language outcomes following traumatic brain injury or surgery.”
Cummine’s research has lead to four publications on epilepsy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of language processes, and reaction times for word naming. She continues her research work in her current position as an assistant professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of Alberta.
Karen Smith was a graduate student fellow with the College of Graduate Studies and Research.