Leading the Vanguard: Gavin Price

Gavin Price smiling

Gavin Price, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Psychology & Human Development. His research focuses on the cognitive and neurological mechanisms supporting basic numerical and mathematical competence in typically and atypically developing individuals. Dr. Price approaches this in three ways. First, characterizing numerical and mathematical neurocognitive systems in typically developing adults. Second, characterizing those systems in typically developing children, and third, characterizing those systems in atypically developing children. These three approaches are synergistic and comprise an integrated research program that ultimately seek stop provide an empirical evidence base for the development of effective educational interventions for children with mathematical learning disabilities (often referred to as dyscalculia).

In the interview below, Price shares what inspires his research in developmental disabilities, what he’s learned through his work, and how membership with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center helps him achieve his goals.

Tell me about your attraction to developmental disabilities research. Do you have a personal connection to disability?

I first became interested in developmental disabilities during my Ph.D. program. My research area was numerical cognition and math development, and I became fascinated by understanding how atypical development of basic brain systems interact with learning to result in math learning disabilities.

What are your current research interests and what challenges do they address?

The main focus of my current research program is understanding how the brain learns to identify Arabic numerals as symbols of number, and how individual differences in that ability relate to math development. One difficulty in understanding math learning disabilities is that there are so many reasons one might end up finding math challenging. My way of dealing with this complexity is to try and focus on the most basic aspects of numerical processing, such as number symbol recognition, as early in development as possible. Right now, we’re using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study children longitudinally from kindergarten through second grade.

Do you have a story that illustrates the impact of your work?

My field of research and our understanding of the brain bases of math disabilities is very much in its infancy compared to say, research on reading disabilities. I get many emails and calls from parents of children with math disabilities who are struggling to understand the source of their child’s difficulties, and what can be done to help them. Speaking to individuals with personal experiences of the disorder is a strong motivator for me regarding my research.

What are your reasons for becoming a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Member?

The VKC provides a wonderful array of resources and opportunities for collaboration. My research program has benefited significantly from being a member of the VKC from logistical things like help with participant recruitment to more abstract things like the way that collaborations have developed my thinking on different topics.

Elizabeth Turner is associate director of VKC Communications.

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