Janice M. Keenan
Professor, Cognitive and DCN
I am a cognitive scientist whose current research is focused on individual differences in reading and language skills, particularly comprehension. Our work attempts to understand both the cognitive mechanisms of language processing as well as the genetic etiology of language deficits. With support from NIH, we are conducting a twin study that allows us to assess how genes and poor learning environments contribute to language problems associated with learning disabilities, such as reading disability, comprehension disorders, and attention deficit disorders. We take a developmental perspective, examining children who are in the early stages of reading all the way up through college-age. We examine a broad range of component language skills from lexical priming to discourse processing. By studying twins we are in a unique position to determine how different language skills might be related to each other at a genetic level. For example, one question we have studied is the extent to which genes underlying the kinds of word-reading problems seen in dyslexia might also be involved in higher-order language deficits. Our results have provided a biological basis for a separation between dyslexia and comprehension deficits (Keenan, et al., 2006). Our studies of language behavior have revealed some limitations in existing measures of language assessment. Thus, another focus of our work is to improve language assessments. Ultimately, we hope that our work on the cognitive and genetic components of language will lead to improved understanding of how and why we differ in the ease with which we use and understand language so that it can lead to better detection and remediation of language problems.
Please note: Dr. Keenan is not admitting graduate students for the 2013-2014 academic year.
Keenan, J. M., Betjemann, R. S., Wadsworth, S. J., DeFries, J. C., & Olson, R.K. (2006). Genetic and environmental influences on reading and listening comprehension. Journal of Research in Reading, 29, 79 – 91.
Keenan, J. M., & Betjemann, R. S. (2006). Comprehending the Gray Oral Reading Test without reading it: Why comprehension tests should not include passage-independent items. Scientific Studies of Reading, 10, 363 – 380.
Keenan, J. M., & Betjemann, R. S. (2007). Comprehension of single words: The role of semantics in reading and reading disability. In E. Grigorenko & A. Naples(Eds.), Single Word Reading (pp.191-210). London: Taylor & Francis.
Keenan, J. M., Betjemann, R. S., & Olson, R.K. (2008). Readingcomprehension tests vary in the skills they assess: Differential dependence on decoding and oral comprehension. Scientific Studies of Reading, 12, 281 – 300.
Betjemann, R.S., & Keenan, J.M. (2008). Phonological and semantic priming in children with reading disability. Child Development, 79, 1086 – 1102.
Keenan, J. M., Olson, R.K., & Betjemann, R. S. (2009). Assessment and etiology of individual differences in reading comprehension. In R. Wagner, C. Schatschneider, & C. Phythian-Sence (Eds.), Beyond decoding: The behavioral and biological foundations of reading comprehension. (pp. 227-245).New York:Guilford.
Miller, A. C., & Keenan, J. M. (2009). How word decoding skill impacts text memory: The centrality deficit and how domain knowledge can compensate. Annals of Dyslexia, 59, 99 – 113.
Olson, R. K., Keenan, J.M.,... (2011) Genetic and environmental influences on vocabulary and reading development from pre-kindergarten through Grade 4. Scientific Studies of Reading, 15, 26–46.
Betjemann, R. S., Keenan, J. M., Olson, R.K., & DeFries, J.R. (2011). Choice of reading comprehension test influences the outcomes of genetic analyses. Scientific Studies of Reading, 15, 363 – 382.
Miller, A. C., & Keenan, J. M. (2011). Understanding the centrality deficit: insight from foreign language learners. Memory & Cognition, 39, 873-883.
Priebe, S. J., Keenan, J. M., & Miller, A. C. (in press). How prior knowledge affects word identification and comprehension. Reading and Writing
University of Colorado
office: Frontier Hall,
Reading & Language