Professor Milene Bonte receives NWO Vici grant

Milene Bonte, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience of Language and Literacy Development at UM’s Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, has received an NWO Vici grant of 1.5 million euros. The amount is earmarked for research into the timely identification of children in need of extra support to prevent reading problems.

Together with the Veni and Vidi grants, the Vici funding is part of the NWO Talent Programme. Vici is intended for senior researchers who have demonstrated their ability to successfully develop their own innovative line of research.

Early intervention is crucial

Professor Bonte receives the Vici grant for her research "The reading curve: Predicting children's reading skills from their neurobehavioural learning trajectories." That focuses on the timely detection of reading problems. Children’s reading development shows large variability. Reading problems, such as dyslexia for example, are currently diagnosed and treated only after it is proven that a child does not respond adequately to reading instruction, often around 8-9 years of age. This is problematic because early intervention is crucial for optimal (reading) development and social opportunities. To enable earlier prediction of reading problems, the researchers design tailored learning tasks and characterize individual differences in children’s learning trajectories by modelling their performance and brain activity. With this knowledge, they develop a digital learning test that predicts who will learn to read fluently and who will need extra support to prevent reading problems.

“Our research will initially focus on behavior in combination with brain activity during short learning tasks”, says Milene Bonte. “This fundamental research is needed to validate the learning tasks and predictive measures that will be implemented in the digital learning test for the early prediction of reading problems in schools. We hope that in the foreseeable future this will lead to optimal reading support for all children at the so much needed earlier stage. If we can offer tailored support from the moment children learn to read, it saves more effortful  interventions afterwards. And it hopefully also prevents the  frustrations and a diminished sense of self-confidence that we often see in struggling readers."

NWO announced today that a total of 34 Vici grants have been awarded. This means 13% of the research proposals submitted over 2022 have been honoured: NWO received a total of 266 proposals.