NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship
Associate Professor Angela Morgan, Director of Speech Pathology, has been awarded an NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship to advance the diagnosis, prognosis and management of childhood speech and language disorders.
One in five Australian children start school with a speech/language disorder. These disorders triple the likelihood of poor reading, spelling and maths outcomes. In turn this leads to higher rates of school non-completion, poor work opportunities and higher rates of criminality. The economic impact of these disorders is astounding: costing $168 billion annually in the US alone.
Current speech pathology practice is limited because it focuses on symptoms and ignores the underlying pathology. This is because of a lack of evidence on the neurobiological bases of speech/language disorders and a failure to translate neurobiological evidence to practice.
A/Prof Morgan's vision is to transform speech pathology by generating ground breaking findings on the underlying genetic or neural pathology of speech/language disorders. Her ground-breaking phenotyping work will continue to identify gene mutations associated with these conditions. She will also examine genotype-phenotype relationships in new syndromes to better understand additional neurogenetic pathways to speech/language disorders. Her cutting-edge MRI methods will identify brain prognostic markers for the most common speech/language phenotypes. For this work, she will draw participants from the world's largest and best-phenotyped longitudinal cohort study of speech and language.
Findings will be translated via a speech clinic training the next generation of clinicians, development of curricula on speech neurobiology implemented nationally and generation of clinical genotype-phenotype guidelines with international reach.
Discovery of genes and brain markers underlying speech disorders will inform diagnosis, genetic counselling and crucially, serve as the basis for development of targeted therapies to improve outcome. This study will revolutionize knowledge of speech development with potential for global impact in improving this fundamental human skill.