Research & Practice Areas
reading development, dyslexia, learning disabilities, bilingual reading development, cognitive development in children
Professor Frank Manis is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California, where he is currently serving as head of the Developmental area. He has published about 60 articles on reading disabilities, development of literacy in both the primary and secondary language and cognitive functioning in special populations of children. The major focus of his research has been on the identification of differences in cognitive profiles among children with reading difficulties. He reviews for several journals in the field, including Scientific Studies of Reading, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology and Developmental Psychology. He is the author of a textbook, The Dynamic Child, and an educational software program, My Virtual Child, both of which are under revision for a publication date of 2024.
- Ph.D. Psychology, University of Minnesota, 1/1981
- B.A. Psychology, Pomona College, 1975
Tenure Track Appointments
- Assistant to Full Professor, University of Southern California, 09/01/1981 –
Summary Statement of Research Interests
My work focuses on the cognitive, psycholinguistic and neurobiological bases of reading in children and adults, dyslexia, learning disabilities, and development of literacy in a second language. Recent projects include an investigation of brain activity in the occipito-temporal junction (or visual word form area) in dyslexic and non-dyslexic adults (with Zhong-Lin Lu, and graduate students Jennifer Bruno, Allison Zumberge and Jason Goldman), experiments on the perception of noise in visual and auditory stimuli (with Lu, and graduate student Rachel Beattie), a fluency-based intervention for middle schoolers with persistent reading problems (with Sally Spencer, Ed.D, 2008), and an investigation of the association between print exposure, reading skill and cortical thickness in skilled readers (with Jason Goldman, M.A., USC). I am also continuing analyses and publication of results from a 9-year longitudinal study of Spanish-speaking children learning to read, in collaboration with Kim Lindsey (Ph.D., 2002, USC) and Jonathan Nakamoto, Ph.D., 2009, USC).
reading, cognitive development, dyslexia, learning disabilities, bilingual reading development, brain imaging
Detailed Statement of Research Interests
The major goals of my research are to understand how people learn to read and what goes wrong in developmental dyslexia. In order to learn to read, the brain must integrate systems that originally evolved for other purposes, such as linguistic communication and visual perception. In most individuals, the reading network in the brain is quite extensive, and includes the classic left hemisphere language regions where meanings and pronunciations appear to be computed (Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas) as well as regions that connect visual processing of print to the language network, such as the occipito-temporal junction, also known as the visual word form area (VWFA). Dyslexic individuals struggle to learn to read, and even as adults, show reduced activation in the reading network, including the VWFA, as well as compensatory activation in other regions of the brain.
My research group is conducting studies in both children and adults to explore why dyslexic people have so much trouble learning to read, and what their problems can tell us about the normal process of reading. One line of work focuses on VWFA activation in adults with and without dyslexia. In a collaboration with Zhong-Lin Lu and two graduate students, Allison Zumberge (Neuroscience) and Jennifer Bruno (Psychology), I am using a novel fMRI methodology to isolate activation to printed words in the VWFA and analyze the properties of printed words that affect VWFA activation in dyslexic and non-dyslexic adults.
The most salient reading problem for dyslexic children involves sounding out unfamiliar words (phonological decoding deficit). This deficit is thought to lead to problems in building up representations of words in the VWFA, and hence is developmentally primary. However, it is unclear what causes the phonological decoding problem. Two seemingly unrelated deficits occur in dyslexic children and adults who have phonological decoding deficits. The first involves visual magnocellular processing, as for example, in pattern recognition under conditions of low visual contrast, or perception of visual motion. The second involves the categorical perception of speech sounds. My colleagues and I think that these two areas of deficiency may be related.
In experiments conducted with Anne Sperling (Neuroscience Ph.D., 2004) and Zhong-Lin Lu, we showed that the visual magnocellular deficit only occurred under noisy visual conditions, and furthermore that it was more salient among dyslexic children with oral language delays. In previous work with Patricia Keating (UCLA Phonetics Lab), my research group had demonstrated that the speech perception deficit was more severe among dyslexics with language deficits. We now hypothesize that a problem in forming perceptual categories in a noisy environment might underlie both the visual and auditory perception problems. In an ongoing study with Lu and graduate student Rachel Beattie, I am investigating whether dyslexic children show deficits in noise exclusion with both auditory and visual stimuli, and whether the noise perception problems are associated with poor phonological decoding and word recognition.
Contracts and Grants Awarded
- Literacy Development In English Language Learners, (Nat Inst of Child Health and Human Dev (NICHHD)), Lindsey, Kim Abkarian $1,080,353, 2002-2009
- Bases Of Normal And Disordered Reading, (Nat Inst of Child Health and Human Dev (NICHHD)), Manis, Franklin R $1,742,626, 2001-2009
- Perceptual, Linguistic and Computational Bases of Dyslexia, (NIH-NICHHD), Franklin Manis $372,000, 1995-2001
- Dropping the perceptual anchor hypothesis: Support for the noise exclusion hypothesis of dyslexia , Association for Psychological SciencePoster, Boston, MA, 2009-2010
- Phonological activation in Chinese word reading: Evidence from the perspective of phonetically-informed phonology. , Research in Reading Chinese and Related LanguagesTalk/Oral Presentation, Toronto, Canada, 2009-2010
- Phonological activation in meaning access for Chinese word reading: Evidence from the perspective of phonetically-informed phonology. , Association for Psychological SciencePoster, Boston, MA, 2009-2010
- The introductory psychology ‘mini-course’: A new strategy for organizing discussion sections. , Association for Psychological SciencePoster, Boston, MA, 2009-2010
- Cognitive bases of reading disability in Spanish-English bilingual children. , Society for the Scientific Study of ReadingPoster, Asheville, North Carolina, 2008 – 2009
- Contribution of early reading skill and language exposure to comprehension in English language learners , Society for the Scientific Study of ReadingPoster, Boston, MA, 2008 – 2009
- fMRI activation patterns predict reading ability in adults with and without developmental dyslexia , Cognitive Neuroscience SocietyPoster, San Francisco, 2008 – 2009
- Relationships among cortical thickness, reading skill and print exposure in adult readers , Society for the Scientific Study of ReadingPoster, Boston, MA, 2008 – 2009
- Teaching and learning about the whole child , Society for Research in Child Development Teaching InstituteTalk/Oral Presentation, Invited, Denver, CO, 2008 – 2009
- Cognitive bases of reading disability in Spanish-English bilingual children , Society for the Scientific Study of ReadingPoster, Asheville, NC, 2007-2008
- fMRI activation patterns predict reading ability in adults with and without developmental dyslexia , Cognitive Neuroscience SocietyPoster, San Francisco, CA, 2007-2008
- Development of English language learners’ word decoding and reading comprehension from first through ninth grade, Biennial Meeting, Montreal, Canada, 2010-2011
- The relationship between prosodic perception, phonological awareness, and vocabulary in emergent literacy , Annual Meeting, St. Petersberg, Florida, 2010-2011
- Reid, G., Fawcett, A. J., Manis, F. R., Siegel, L. S. (2008). The Sage Handbook of Dyslexia. (Reid, G., Fawcett, A. J., Manis, F. R., Siegel, L. S., Ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.
- Manis, F. R., Lindsey, K. A. (2010). Cognitive and oral language contributors to reading disabilities in Spanish-English bilingual children. Language and Literacy Development in Bilingual Set pp. 280-303. New York, NY: Guilford.
- Manis, F. R., Lindsey, K. A. (2008). Exploring heterogeneity in developmental dyslexia: A longitudinal investigation. pp. 149-173. London: The Sage Handbook of Dyslexia.
- Beattie, R. L., Manis, F. R. (2011). Rise time perception in children with reading and additional non-phonological language difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities.
- Beattie, R. L., Lu, Z., Manis, F. R. (2011). Dyslexic adults can learn from repeated stimulus presentation but have difficulties in excluding external noise. PLoS One.
- Manis, F. R., Beattie, R. L. (2011). The relationship between prosodic perception, phonological awareness and vocabulary in emergent literacy. Journal of Research in Reading.
- Nakamoto, J., Lindsey, K. A., Manis, F. R. (2011). Development of reading skills from K-3 in Spanish-speaking English language learners following three programs of instruction. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal.
- Goldman, J. G., Orechwa, A. Z., Manis, F. R. (2011). Relationships among cortical thickness, reading skill and print exposure in adult readers. Scientific Studies of Reading.
- Spencer, S. A., Manis, F. R. (2010). The effects of a fluency intervention program on the reading outcomes of middle school students. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice. Vol. 25 (2), pp. 76-86.
- Nakamoto, J., Manis, F. R., Lindsey, K. A. (2008). A cross-linguistic investigation of English language learners’ reading comprehension in English and Spanish. Scientific Studies of Reading. Vol. 12 (4), pp. 351-371.
- Bruno, J. L., Zumberge, A. A., Manis, F. R., Lu, Z., Goldman, J. G. (2008). Sensitivity to orthographic familiarity in the occipito-temporal region. NeuroImage. Vol. 39, pp. 1988-2001.
- Nakamoto, J., Lindsey, K. A., Manis, F. R. (2007). A Longitudinal Analysis of English language learners word decoding and reading comprehension. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal/Springer. Vol. 20, pp. 691-719.
- Bruno, J., Manis, F. R., Keating, P., Sperling, A. J., Nakamoto, J., Seidenberg, M. S. (2007). Auditory word identification in dyslexic and normally achieving readers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology/Elsevier. Vol. 97, pp. 183-204.
- Zumberge, A., Baker, L. A., Manis, F. R. (2007). Focus on words: Genetic and environmental influences in reading and inattention. Behavior Genetics/Kluwer Academic Press. Vol. 37, pp. 284-293.
- Educational Website, My Virtual Teen (Pearson Publishing), 2009-2010
- Website, My Virtual Child (revision for Pearson Publishing), 2010-2011
- Online textbook, The Dynamic Child, published in Pearson’s Revel system, is a 15-chapter textbook on child and adolescent development. The web link is https://www.pearson.com/us/higher-education/product/Manis-Revel-for-The-Dynamic-Child-Instant-Access/9780136049746.html, 2017-2019
- USC Center for Excellence in Teaching, Faculty Fellow, Faculty Fellow, 2006/09/01-2009/08/31
Editorships and Editorial Boards
- Editorial Board, Scientific Studies of Reading”, 2010-2011
- Editorial Board, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology”, 2007 – 2010
- Editor, Scientific Studies of Reading”, 2003 – 2007
- Association for Psychological Science, 2007 – 2011
- International Dyslexia Association, 2007 – 2011
- Society for Research in Child Development, 2007 – 2011
- Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, 2007 – 2011