Education and Brain Sciences Research Lab -

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The Education and Brain Sciences Research Lab investigates the neural correlates of learning in children, or Educational Neuroscience (sometimes referred to as Educational Cognitive Neuroscience). In particular, we seek to understand why some children are successful at learning to read, while others are not. Our research projects focus on intervention, reading comprehension, and Neurofibromatosis Type 1. Across all these projects, we seek to understand the how the development of oral language and executive function interrelates to skill acquisition in the reading domain. We aim to improve the diagnosis and treatment of children who are struggling learners by combining findings from neurobiological, psychological, and educational perspectives. Clinical services are also available through the Education and Brain Research Lab’s affiliation with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic.

Our team comprises faculty-level research scientists, Masters and bachelors-level team members, and other professionals in the fields of education, psychology, and neuroscience.


Laurie E. Cutting, Ph.D.


  • Patricia and Rodes Hart Endowed Chair
  • Professor of Special Education, Psychology, Radiology, and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University
  • Director of the Education and Brain Sciences Research Lab at Vanderbilt University
  • Email Dr. Cutting:

Dr. Cutting received her degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 1997 from Northwestern University. During her doctoral work at Northwestern University, she completed internships at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Yale University School of Medicine’s Center for Learning and Attention, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. After receiving her doctorate, Dr. Cutting subsequently completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in Developmental Cognitive Neurology/Neuroscience at the Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Cutting then joined the Kennedy Krieger Institute as a Research Scientist and faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In 2002-2003, she completed an AAAS Executive Branch Science Policy fellowship. Prior to moving to Vanderbilt, Dr. Cutting was an Associate Professor of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and an Associate Professor of Education at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Cutting moved to Vanderbilt University in September 2009 and is currently Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Education and Human Development at Peabody College, with appointments in Special Education and Psychology; se also holds appointments in Radiology and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Cutting is the Director of the Education and Brain Sciences Research Lab at Vanderbilt University, which focuses on cognitive neuroscience research as related to educational issues. In particular, the lab conducts research regarding neurobiology and the treatment of reading disabilities, as well as other developmental disabilities. Dr. Cutting is also a key faculty member for the Educational Neuroscience Ph.D. program.

Sheryl L. Rimrodt-Frierson, M.D.


  • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Special Education, Vanderbilt University
  • Senior Research Scientist of the Education and Brain Sciences Research Lab at Vanderbilt University
  • Email Dr. Rimrodt-Frierson:

Dr. Sheryl L. Rimrodt-Frierson is a developmental pediatrician with board certification in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. She obtained her B.S. in Mathematical Sciences from Stanford University, her M.D. from University of California, San Diego, and her post-doctoral training in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. While at Johns Hopkins, Sheryl was an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Research Scientist within the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Developmental Cognitive Neurology, Education and Brain Research Program (EBRP). Her current appointments are as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Special Education, Vanderbilt University and Senior Research Scientist of the Education and Brain Sciences Research Lab at Vanderbilt University.


Laura Barquero, Ph.D.


Laura Barquero is a research associate in the lab. She manages activities related to the neuroimaging team and works in coordination with the behavioral team. She received her M.S. in Biology from Middle Tennessee State University and worked in labs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Department of Hematology/Oncology and the Department of Stem Cell Biology before beginning her Ph.D. program. While working on her Ph.D. in Special Education at Vanderbilt University, Laura served as a research assistant in the Education and Brain Sciences Research Laboratory. After graduating in 2015, she continued in the lab in her current position. Her research interests include reading difficulties, response to reading intervention, and functional neuroimaging, with particular interest in behavioral and neurobiological differences between adequate and inadequate response to intervention.

Julie Delheimer, B.S.


Julie’s primary responsibilities include recruiting, scheduling, consenting, and intake screening of research participants. She oversees the participants’ visits and the daily progress for most of Dr. Cutting’s projects. Julie received her B.S. in Psychology in May 1985 from University of Illinois. After many years of working as a Research Analyst in Adult Psychology research at the University of Illinois (1986-2000) and Vanderbilt (2000-2010), in December 2010 she transferred to VU Special Education with EBRL. Julie enjoys finding new ways to make the research experience in the lab enjoyable and rewarding for children and their families. In her spare time, Julie enjoys playing tennis, cooking, decorating, woodworking, and crafting/ repurposing.

Angela Sefcik, MPH


Angela helps manage the lab’s behavioral team, which includes training & supervising graduate research assistants, overseeing behavioral data collection & storage, as well as reporting results to participant families. She also manages IRB communications and Dr. Cutting’s Adult study. She received her B.A. in biology at Ohio State University and a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati in public health with a concentration in health education. Previously, she worked at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the Department of Hematology and Oncology in the School Intervention Program as a research assistant. Her research interests include public health education and primary prevention of chronic illness, especially in children.

Doctoral Students

Stephen Bailey, B.S.


Stephen is a doctoral student in Educational Neuroscience. After receiving his B.A. in philosophy and B.S. in chemistry from Samford University, he served as operations manager for Teach For America in Alabama. His research interests include the human connectome and its relationship to behavior, as well as the development of cognitive faculties in children and adults.

Katherine Aboud, M.F.A


Katherine Aboud received her B.S. in Mathematics and English from Virginia Tech, an M.F.A. in Poetry at George Mason, and is currently a Ph.D student in Vanderbilt’s Educational Neuroscience program. Katherine is particularly interested in using multiple types of neuroimaging approaches to examine the neural correlates of semantic processing (i.e. the way we connect visual word representations to meaning), and how deficits in these processes contribute to reading difficulties. In her spare time, she likes to read bad science fiction books, write poetry, and explore new restaurants in Nashville.

Neena M. (Saha) Hudson, M.S.


Neena (Saha) Hudson is a doctoral student in the special education department. Before Vanderbilt she taught remedial reading to high school students in special education. Interested in the brain bases of learning she received her Masters degree in educational neuroscience from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include: typical and atypical reading development, predicting response to intervention, and triangulating a variety of methods (behavioral, eye-tracking, neuroimaging) to create usable tools for application in special education.

Jonathan D. Scheff


Jonathan Scheff studied chemistry at Macalester College and Educational Neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His interests in child development include math and language cognition and the long-term effects of trauma, as well as effective interventions in each of those fields.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Miranda Richmond

Current Openings

There are no openings at this time.  Check this page in the future for openings we may have.