College of Education *
College of Education *
Donald (D.J.) Bolger (HDQM)
Donald (D.J.) Bolger
Contact Information:
Room: 3304N Benjamin Building
Phone: (301) 405-9103

Donald (D.J.) Bolger (Ph. D., University of Pittsburgh)
Assistant Professor; Developmental Science Program & Educational Psychology Specialization
Human Development and Quantitative Methodology (HDQM)


Research Interests | Bio | Publications | Curriculum Vitae |

Research Interests

how the brain learns to read; sources of reading skill and impairment; how children learn the meaning of words


Professional Biography

Donald J. Bolger, Assistant Professor of Human Development & Quantitative Methodology, studies how the brain learns to read and what are the cognitive and neural bases of reading and language ability and disability. The core of his laboratory's research focus is on these key issues of reading from neurobiological, cognitive, developmental and educational perspectives. Reading is a complex cognitive skill that requires that small complex visual forms (letters) be accurately recognized and integrated with linguistic information from sound and meaning with the ultimate purpose of achieving comprehension. Thus, typical and atypical reading and language ability may be reflected in quite heterogeneous patterns of cortical activation stemming from visual, auditory or supramodal processing regions.

Dr. Bolger employs multiple methods in structural and functional MRI to understand the dynamics of cortical networks in skilled and disabled readers, including functional connectivity analyses and diffusion imaging. Dr. Bolger’s lab is increasingly focusing on how the effects of intervention are reflected in cortex, specifically using executive function and working memory training paradigms. From school-based and cross-sectional paradigms to online adult training tasks, our work combines innovative and complex methodologies the combine MRI with event-related potentials (ERP) to understand development and learning.

Dr. Bolger is an affiliate of the Center for Advanced Study of Language ( and a founding member of the Maryland Neuroimaging Center ( ).

Back to Top


Selected Publications

Liu, L., Deng, X., Peng, D., Liu, L., Vira, A., Friedman, E.B., Minas, J., Bolger, D.J., Bitan, T. & Booth, J.R. (2011). Children with Reading Disability Show Brain Differences in Effective Connectivity for Visual, but Not Auditory Word Comprehension. PLoS ONE 5(10): e13492. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013492

Cao, F., Khalid, K., Lee, R., Brennan, C., Yanhui, Y., Li, K., Bolger, D.J., & Booth, J.R. (2011). Development of brain networks involved in spoken word processing of Mandarin Chinese. Neuroimage, 57 (3): 750-759.

Desroches AS, Cone NE, Bolger DJ, Bitan T, Burman DD & Booth JR (2010). Children with reading difficulties show differences in brain regions associated with orthographic processing during spoken language processing. Brain Research, 1356, 73-84.

Liu, L., Friedman, E.B., Bolger, D.J., Bitan, T. & Booth, J.R. (in press). Children with reading disability show deficits in top-down and bottom-up processing during semantic tasks in both visual and auditory modalities. NeuroImage.

Cao, F., Khalid, K., Zaveri, R., Bolger, D.J., Bitan, T. & Booth, J.R. (2009). Neural correlates of priming effects in children during spoken word processing with orthographic demands. Brain and Language, 114:2, 80-89.

Liu, L., Deng, X., Peng, D., Cao, F., Ding, G., Jin, Z., Zeng, Y., Li, K., Zhu., L., Fan, N., Deng, Y., Bolger, D.J., & Booth, J.R. (2009). Modality- and task-specific brain regions involved in Chinese lexical processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21:8, 1473-1487

Bolger, D.J., Minas, J. E., Burman, D.D. & Booth, J.R. (2008). Orthographic and phonological consistency effects in cortex of children with and without reading disorders. Neuropsychologia, 46, 3210-3224.

Bolger, D.J., Hornickel, J., Cone, N E., Burman, D.D. & Booth, J.R. (2008). Neural correlates of orthographic and phonological consistency effects in children. Human Brain Mapping, 29,1416-1429.

Cone, N.E., Burman, D.D., Bitan, T., Bolger, D.J., & Booth, J.R. (2008). Developmental changes in brain regions involved in phonological and orthographic processing during spoken language processing. NeuroImage,41, 623-635.

Bolger, D.J., Balass, M., Landen, E., & Perfetti, C.A. (2008). Contextual variation and definitions in learning the meanings of words. Discourse Processes, 45:122-159.

Perfetti, C.A., Liu, Y., Fiez, J., Nelson, J., Bolger, D.J. & Tan, L-H. (2007). Reading in two writing systems: Accomodation and assimilation of the brain’s reading network. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 10, 131-146.

Landi, N., Perfetti, C. A., Bolger, D. J., Dunlap, S., Foorman, B. R. (2006). The role of discourse context in developing word form representations: A paradoxical relationship between reading and learning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 94(2): 114-133.

Schneider, W., Bolger, D. J., Eschman, A., Neff, C. & Zuccolotto, A. P. (2005). Psychology Experiment Authoring Kit (PEAK) - Formal Usability Testing of an Easy-to-Use Method for Creating Computerized Experiments. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 37(2): 312-323.

Bolger, D.J., Schneider, W., Perfetti, C.A. (2005). Cross-cultural effect on the Brain Revisited: Universal structures plus writing system variation. Human Brain Mapping, 25(1), 92-104.

Perfetti, C. A., & Bolger, D.J. (2004). The brain might read that way. Scientific Studies in Reading, 8(3):293-304.


Atkins, S. M., Bunting, M. F., Bolger, D. J., & Dougherty, M. R. (2012). Training the adolescent brain: Neural plasticity and the acquisition of cognitive abilities. In V. F. Reyna, S. B. Chapman, M. R. Dougherty & J. Confrey (Eds.), The adolescent brain: Learning, reasoning, and decision making. (pp. 211-241). Washington, DC US: American Psychological Association.

Atkins, S. M., Bolger, D. J. , Dougherty, M. R., & Bunting, M. F. (2012). Changes in the Cognitive Control and Default Mode Networks following Working Memory Training. (TTO 3501: Technical Report, pp. 1-27). College Park: University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language.

Yoon, H.Y, Bolger, D. J., Kwan, O. S., & Perfetti, C. A. (2003). Subsyllabic Units in Reading: A Difference between Korean and English. In L. Verhoeven, C. Elbro, & P. Reitsma (Eds), Precursors of Functional Literacy. Nijmegen, Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Back to Top


Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum Vitae

Back to Top