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Martha Bridge Denckla, M.D.

Photo of Dr. Martha Bridge Denckla, M.D.

Director, Developmental Cognitive Neurology Clinic

Professor of Neurology


Dr. Denckla graduated summa cum laude from Bryn Mawr College and went on to graduate cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1962, where she trained with Dr. Norman Geschwind in behavioral neurology. Dr. Denckla served residencies at Beth Israel Hospital and Veterans Administration Hospital, both in Boston, as well as Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC. After positions in neurology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and Harvard Medical School, she served as the director of the learning disabilities clinic at the Children's Hospital. She came to the Maryland area in 1982 to serve as chief of the section on autism and related disorders at the developmental neurology branch of the Neurological Disorders Program at the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NIH). She came to Johns Hopkins and the Kennedy Krieger Institute in 1987. Dr. Denckla is currently director of the Developmental Cognitive Neurology Clinic at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and principal investigator of an NIH-funded research Center P50 HD052121.

Dr. Denckla is a past president of both the International Neuropsychology Society, and the Behavioral Neurology Society. more


  • Director, Developmental Cognitive Neurology Clinic
  • Professor of Neurology
  • Joint Appointment in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Professor of Pediatrics

Departments / Divisions


Additional Training

Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA, 1964, Neurology

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The goal of this Research Center is to examine the reading disabilities (RDs) present in children grades 3-8, including classification, identification, treatment, prevalence, neurocognitive characteristics, as well as the influence of comorbidities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on reading. While much is known about early reading development and disorders, there has been much less examination of reading and RDs past the early elementary grades. Therefore, there is a critical gap in knowledge about what it takes for a reader to be able to effectively glean information - or learn - from text, even though this is arguably the most important skill needed to achieve academic success after the 3rd grade. Our Research Center seeks to fill this critical gap in knowledge by bringing together a diverse and talented set of researchers and institutions (Kennedy Krieger Institute, Haskins Laboratories, Educational Testing Services (ETS), and University of Maryland) to conduct interrelated projects, the findings from which will allow us to gain a deep understanding of the neurobiological and behavioral processes that influence reading achievement past the early elementary grades. Our overarching hypothesis is that RDs past the early elementary years are heterogeneous in nature, caused by both "bottom up" and "top down" processes.

Within this context, we propose projects that

  1. examine the neurobiological and behavioral development of word-level efficiency, the relationship between word-level and text-level fluency and comprehension, and the influence of different textual demands upon comprehension;
  2. examine the validity of RTI as a way of identifying children with RDs, and to determine if there are neurocognitive indicators that predict intervention responsiveness;
  3. determine how the cognitive aspects of ADHD (processing speed, working memory) influence reading comprehension; and
  4. to determine the prevalence of different subtypes of RDs by building upon the knowledge gained from Projects 1, 2, and 3, as well as analyses of extant datasets.

Thus, within the framework of Project 4, the projects of the Research Center converge in an endeavor that will have significant public health value. Knowing the common subtypes of RDs at what age, as well as the influence of ADHD, will help reveal appropriate instructional emphases for the older children in our nation, including risk factors teachers should be looking for.

Selected Publications

Performance lapses in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder contribute to poor reading fluency. Jacobson LA, Ryan M, Denckla MB, Mostofsky SH, Mahone EM. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2013 Nov;28(7):672-83. doi: 10.1093/arclin/act048. Epub 2013 Jul 9. PMID: 23838684

Jitter Reduces Response-Time Variability in ADHD: An Ex-Gaussian Analysis. Lee RW, Jacobson LA, Pritchard AE, Ryan MS, Yu Q, Denckla MB, Mostofsky S, Mahone EM. J Atten Disord. 2012 Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print] No abstract available. PMID: 23190614

Multiple task interference is greater in children with ADHD. Ewen JB, Moher JS, Lakshmanan BM, Ryan M, Xavier P, Crone NE, Denckla MB, Egeth H, Mahone EM. Dev Neuropsychol. 2012;37(2):119-33. doi: 10.1080/87565641.2011.632459. PMID: 22339226

Comprehensive examination of frontal regions in boys and girls with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Mahone EM, Ranta ME, Crocetti D, O'Brien J, Kaufmann WE, Denckla MB, Mostofsky SH. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2011 Nov;17(6):1047-57. doi: 10.1017/S1355617711001056. Epub 2011 Sep 19. PMID: 21923979

Increased regional fractional anisotropy in highly screened attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Peterson DJ, Ryan M, Rimrodt SL, Cutting LE, Denckla MB, Kaufmann WE, Mahone EM. J Child Neurol. 2011 Oct;26(10):1296-302. doi: 10.1177/0883073811405662. Epub 2011 May 31. PMID: 21628699

Activities & Honors


  • The Lucy G. Moses Prize in Clinical Neurology, Columbia University
  • The Norman Geschwind Memorial Lectureship, Orton Society
  • The Rita G. Rudel Memorial Lectureship, Columbia University
  • The Herbert Birch Memorial Lectureship, International Neuropsychology Society
  • The Soriano Guest Lectureship, American Neurological Association
  • The Bernard Sachs Lectureship, Child Neurological Society
  • Research Center Award, The American Academy of Mental Retardation
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