Research Studies Currently Recruiting Participants

The projects conducted through the Center for Dyslexia Research Laboratory seek to expand the understanding of typical and atypical forms of reading development across the lifespan, and support the translation of this knowledge through the outreach and training efforts of the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia at MTSU.

In order to conduct this research we work with a variety of people in order to address our research questions. Participants in our studies may include children with reading difficulties, children without reading difficulties (e.g., neurotypicals), parents of both of these groups, or adults who do or do not have reading difficulties. Please contact us at if you are interested in being involved in a study, or have questions about your potential eligibility.

Contact us now to participate in a dyslexia screening and intervention study!

The study is paused as our communities respond to the current COVID-19 events.

This flyer outlines the Multisensory Language Screening and Intervention Study.


More information about this study is available below.

Study Title: Multisensory Language Screening and Intervention Study

Primary Investigators: Drs. Emily Farris, Tim Odegard, and Melinda Hirschmann

What is the study about?

The research questions motivating this study are about whether children will exhibit larger gains in reading due to some types of reading intervention instructional techniques than to others. This study will help us to learn about how to optimize reading interventions for children who have characteristics of dyslexia and struggle to read. We are specifically investigating differences in instructional techniques used to improve the reading abilities of children with characteristics of dyslexia. We will be measuring each child’s reading and related skills. We will also collect noninvasive electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings.

How long does the study last?

The study occurs in two phases. The first phase is screening to ensure participating children exhibit characteristics of dyslexia. It involves one visit to the Center lasting about 2.5 – 3 hours. Based on the results of the first phase, the child may receive an invitation to be in the second phase. There are multiple parts to the second phase. The child will complete two separate 3 – 4 hour visits to the Center to measure reading abilities and have EEG data recorded. These sessions are in addition to the screening session which should have been completed previously. The child will attend reading intervention sessions for 6 weeks in between those visits. There are three types of reading intervention groups. The interventions vary in the extent to which multimodal instruction of phonemic awareness, decoding and word recognition, and spelling are emphasized. All intervention groups will meet for 45 – 90 minutes a day for 4 - 5 days a week for 6 weeks. The intervention will occur on the MTSU campus during the summer (between May and August 2020). You must participate in the screening phase to be invited to participate in the intervention phase. However, being in the screening phase does not guarantee an invitation to the intervention phase. Participants will be randomly assigned to the different intervention groups by research personnel.

What will my child be asked to do as a research study participant?

 We are measuring each child participant's reading and related skills using paper-and-pencil measures. The child’s parents will also be asked to acquire information from the child's school to share with the research personnel in order to help determine if each child exhibits characteristics of dyslexia. We are also collecting noninvasive electroencephalogram (EEG) data throughout the study to learn more about how children process information, how their brains change after intervention, and how the measures of a child's brain activity relate to his or her reading skills. Each child who continues to phase two of the study (the intervention), will have his or her reading and related skills measured and EEG data collected at the beginning and end of the intervention to see how his or her skills change. Specific activities for each phase of the study are described below.

 Activities during Phase 1 Screening:

  1.  Contact us to schedule an appointment (see details below).
  2. Arrive at the Center for Dyslexia for a 2.5 - 3 hour session that you have scheduled with research personnel.
  3. Parent and child meet with researchers to review study details, ask remaining questions, and formally agree to participate or not.
    1. If you decide not to participate you are free to go.
    2. If you decide to participate you will continue with this session.
  4. Child works with researchers to complete tasks that measure reading and related skills. EEG data is collected during part of this time (details about EEG are below).
  5. Meanwhile the parent meets with a researcher to complete some questionnaires that tell us more about their child. The parent will also be given a packet of forms to tell research personnel more about the child's educational and developmental history. Some parts are to be completed by the parent, and other parts should be completed by the child's teacher(s). The parent will be responsible for interacting with the child's teacher to obtain information (i.e., have the form filled out) and then share it with the research personnel. Additional forms are included to document how this process works in order to maintain the child's confidentiality and be compliant with HIPPA and FERPA. Researchers will review the instructions with the parents.
  6. Parent returns completed packet to the researchers within 14 calendar days.
  7. Within the next few weeks, the parent receives a reading performance summary describing his or her child's literacy profile. This is a direct benefit you receive for participating in our research study. This document will state that the child participated in a research study and some reading and literacy skills were assessed as part of it. The child's scores and resulting literacy profile are being shared so the child and parent can learn more about the child's current performance.
  8. Children whose literacy profiles reflect a strong likelihood of risk for characteristics of dyslexia may receive an invitation to participate in the phase 2 portion of the study, the intervention. Participation in the intervention is by invitation only. Your child MUST participate in the phase 1 screening in order to participate in the intervention. However, participation in the screening does not guarantee an invitation to participate in the intervention.

Activities during Phase 2 Intervention:

  1.  Reply to your phase 2 intervention invitation to schedule an initial baseline session at the Center for Dyslexia.
  2. Arrive at the Center for Dyslexia for the 3 - 4 hour baseline session.
  3. Parent and child meet with researchers to review study details, ask remaining questions, and formally agree to participate or not.
  4. Child works with researchers to complete tasks that measure reading and related skills and EEG data is collected during part of this time.
  5. Meanwhile the parent meets with a researcher to complete some questionnaires that tell us more about their child.
  6. Study personnel will provide the parent and child with more information about the intervention session dates, times, and locations via email.
  7. Bring your child to the MTSU campus for all scheduled intervention sessions.
  8. Towards the end of the 6 weeks of intervention, you will be contacted by research personnel to schedule a 3 - 4 hour post-intervention session at the Center for Dyslexia.
  9. Arrive at the Center for Dyslexia for the 3 - 4 hour post-intervention session.
  10. Child works with researchers to complete tasks that measure reading and related skills and EEG data is collected during part of this time. Then you and your child are free to go.

How do I know if my child can participate?

 Your child must meet ALL of the following criteria in order to participate. If you have questions about eligibility, please contact us using the email address provided below.

  1. Experiencing struggles reading
  2. Be 6 - 9 years of age
  3. Be in 1st or 2nd grade
  4. Be a native English Speaker
  5. Have average or corrected to normal vision and hearing abilities
  6. Have average or above average cognitive abilities
  7. No severe emotional or behavioral problems
  8. No autism spectrum disorder
  9. Willing and able to have EEG data collected
  10. Willing and able to attend 6 weeks of reading intervention sessions during summer 2020 at the MTSU campus

Description of EEG:

Electroencephalogram (EEG) is a noninvasive neuroimaging technique that allows us to measure electrical activity from the scalp to get a better idea of the timing and spatial arrangement in which different groups of neurons in a brain fire. For the purpose of this study EEG is being used to examine how the child's brain integrates the processing of auditory and visual stimuli, such as letter sounds and written letters, as well as how parts of the brain communicate with each other when the child is at rest and not engaged in a particular task.

There are special steps that must be taken in order for us to be able to collect EEG data. We want to make sure that you and your child are aware of these steps and are able to complete them. We are providing this information here and will also review it with both you and your child at the beginning of the study sessions. This way you and your child will have the opportunity to ask questions and make an informed decision about the choice to participate in this study.

In order to collect EEG data we will place a silicone-based cap snugly on your child's head. The cap contains electrodes that are covered in foam and sit against the scalp. These electrodes record electrical activity from the scalp to help us know about where and when different populations of neurons are firing in the brain. An electrode will also be placed on one cheek below the eye with medical tape to record eye blinks.

There are some things that you need to do before arriving at the study to help us be able to record all of this EEG information, as well as some things that we do during the session so that we can obtain a clear signal.

Special Preparations Before Your Child’s EEG Session:

Before arriving at the study session, you should shampoo your child's hair. Do NOT use any conditioner or other styling products. Your child's hair does not need to be washed immediately before the study and it is preferred if he or she arrives at the study session with dry hair. Washing their hair the night before or morning of the study is fine. We are asking your child to wash their hair to make sure it and their scalp is clean. It is important that your child does not add additional products to their hair. If conditioner or other styling products are used it can make it difficult to impossible for the electrodes in the EEG cap to pick up a good signal. So, we would have to stop the study session.

At the EEG Session:

After you have arrived at the session a researcher will escort your child to our EEG room when it is time to complete the EEG portion of the study. Your child will sit in a chair and face a computer monitor. The researcher will give them a sterilized comb and ask them to carefully comb their hair and scalp. Then, the researcher will put the silicone-based cap on your child's head. The cap needs to fit snugly and has a chin strap. The researcher will have measured your child's head at the beginning of the study session so that the best-sized cap can be prepared and used. Parts of the cap may feel damp because it must soak in a saline-based electrolyte solution for several minutes before use. That saline-based electrolyte solution will get in your child's hair, but can be easily washed out after the study is completed. Once the cap is on your child's head the researcher will use long q-tips to gently move your child's hair so that the foam covering the electrodes can rest against the scalp and pick up the electrical signals from it. The electrodes are not able to pick up a signal through lots of hair. We must move hair out from under the electrodes by pushing it to the sides as much as possible. The researcher may also apply a non-toxic conductance-enhancing gel on your child's scalp at this time. This gel will get in your child's hair. It can be easily washed out after the study is completed.

Both the saline-based electrolyte solution and non-toxic conductance-enhancing gel are safe to use and can be washed out afterwards. Sometimes people with skin allergies may develop some temporary redness on the areas that these materials touch. So, if your child has a history of skin allergies you may want to choose to not participate in this study.

Then, the researcher will begin recording the EEG data. The cap fits snugly so it may start to feel uncomfortable for some people as time passes. Your child will be encouraged to let the researcher know at any time if it feels too uncomfortable and they will help to take the cap off if needed. While your child wears the EEG cap he or she will watch a computer monitor, listen to different sounds being played, and be asked to sit quietly. Your child will be given breaks to stretch and wiggle in-between activities. Once the data collection portion is done the researcher will remove the cap. EEG data will be collected once during phase 1 and twice during phase 2 of the study.

What are the risks involved in participating in this study?

There are minimal risks. To record EEG data during each of the 3 visits to the Center for Dyslexia, the child wears a cap on their head that fits snugly for 45 minutes. EEG recording is noninvasive and allows us to measure the activity of brain cells. A silicone-based cap is placed on the child's head. It is covered in a saline-based electrolyte solution and a non-toxic conductance gel is applied to the scalp. Individuals with a history of skin allergies or eczema may experience minor skin irritation associated with the solution and gel used to record EEG data, but any discomfort should be temporary.

 The other activities that your child will be asked to complete are to measure his or her reading, spelling, and related skills. These activities are completed during the 3 visits to the Center, and during the intervention sessions. Many of these activities are the types of things that your child does during a typical school day.

Are there any benefits my child will receive for participating in this study?

Yes. There are multiple direct benefits. Children who complete the screening will be given a reading performance summary describing their current literacy profile. Children who move on to the second phase will receive 6 weeks of reading intervention. These direct benefits are provided to study participants for free. The only costs to you and your child are your time.

How do I find out more information, ask questions, or schedule an appointment for phase 1 screening?

Email Dr. Emily Farris at for more information and to schedule appointments for the research study. Subsequently you may receive correspondence from additional research personnel.