how the brain learns to read, sources of reading skill and impairment, how children learn the meaning of words, the impact of stress on learning and development

Dr. Bolger's research focuses on the neurocognitive underpinnings of typical and atypical development of language and reading as well as the role of general cognitive ability and executive functioning in the basic aspects of learning. He has nearly 20 years of hands-on experience in using functional neuroimaging methods with typically developing children as well as those with learning disabilities including dyslexia. His lab has also investigated the mechanisms of inferring the emotion of others from language and whether these mechanisms are impaired in Autism Spectrum Disorder. More recently, his research has focused on the impact of poverty and family environment on language and cognitive development in early childhood.

Dr. Bolger uses a variety of research methodologies including structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and other physiological measures. His research has been funded by the Office of Naval Research, the Congressional Directed Medical Research Program via the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes for Health. This work has been published in journals including Human Brain Mapping, Neuropsychologia, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, etc.  Dr. Bolger is an affiliate faculty member of the Language Science Center ( and the Maryland Neuroimaging Center ( 


Sand, L. A., & Bolger, D. J. (2019). The Neurobiological Strands of Developmental Dyslexia: What We Know and What We Don’t Know. To appear in: D. Kilpatrick, R. Wagoner, & M. Joshi (Eds.), The handbook of developmental dyslexia. NY, NY: Springer.

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.


Teubner-Rhodes, S., Bolger, D. J., & Novick, J. M. (2019). Conflict monitoring and detection in the bilingual brain. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 22(2), 228-252.

Kim, S. Y., & Bolger, D. J. (2017). Effects of Visual, Lexical, and Contextual Factors on Word Recognition in Reading Korean Sentences. Journal of Cognitive Science, 18(1), 43-83.

Renzi, D. T., Romberg, A. R., Bolger, D. J., & Newman, R. S. (2017). Two minds are better than one: Cooperative communication as a new framework for understanding infant language learning. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 3(1), 19.

Kim, S. Y. & Bolger. D. J. (2016). The role of subsyllabic units in the visual word recognition of Korean monosyllabic words: A masked priming study. Journal of Cognitive Science17(3), 343-359.

Bolger, D. J., Mackey, A. P., Wang, M., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2014). The role and sources of individual differences in critical thinking: a capsule overview. Educational Psychology Review, 26 (4), 495-518.

Jackson, A. F., & Bolger, D. J. (2014). The neurophysiological bases of EEG and EEG measurement: A review for the rest of us. Psychophysiology, 51 (11), 1061-1071.

McClelland, J. L., Mirman, D., Bolger, D. J., & Khaitan, P. (2014). Interactive activation and mutual constraint satisfaction in perception and cognition. Cognitive Science, 38(6), 1139-1189.

Atkins, S. M., *Sprenger, A. M., ‡Briner, T. L., ‡Buchanan, J. B., ‡Chavis, S. E., ‡Chen, S-Y, ‡Iannuzzi, G. L., ‡Kashtelyan, V., ‡Dowling, E., Bolger, D. J., Bunting, M. F., & Dougherty, M. R. (2014). Measuring working memory is all fun and games: A four- dimensional spatial game predicts cognitive task performance. Experimental Psychology, 61(6), 2014, 417-438.

Jackson, A. F., & Bolger, D. J. (2014). Using a high-dimensional graph of semantic space to model relationships among words. Frontiers in Psychology: Language Science, 5, E385.

Sprenger, A. M., †Atkins, S. M., Bolger, D. J., Harbison, J. I., Novick, J. M., Weems, S. A., Chrabaszcz, J. S., Smith, V., Bobb, S., Bunting, M. F., & Dougherty, M. R. (2013). Training working memory: Limits of transfer. Intelligence, 41, 638-663.

Burman, D. D., ‡Minas, T., Bolger, D. J., & Booth, J. R. (2013). Age, sex, and verbal abilities affect location of linguistic connectivity in ventral visual pathway. Brain and language, 124, 184-193.

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.