UCSF, UC Berkeley to open facilities for dyslexia research

Allen Zeng/Staff

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UCSF and UC Berkeley will be opening alliance research and clinical facilities dedicated to studying and spreading awareness of dyslexia and other neurodevelopmental differences due to a $20 million contribution from Charles Schwab, the founder and chairman of the Charles Schwab Corporation.

Known officially as the UCSF-UC Berkeley Schwab Dyslexia and Cognitive Diversity Center, the goal of these facilities is to help reduce the social stigma surrounding dyslexia and provide a program of comprehensive research that involves careful clinical characterization and longitudinal follow-up that has not been done before, according to S. Andrew Josephson, a professor and chair of neurology at UCSF who holds a medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

The center at UCSF will be housed in the Child, Teen and Family Center and Department of Psychiatry Building and is set to open in 2020, according to a UC press release. At UC Berkeley, the center will open in Berkeley Way West.

“(The alliance between UCSF and UC Berkeley) happened to a large extent organically,” Josephson said. “It’s very clear that our department of psychiatry and neurology here at UCSF and the departments of psychology, education and public health at UC Berkeley held similar interests and goals.”

When it comes to the field of neuroscience, the facilities hope to unveil the darkness surrounding these issues. According to UCSF professor of neurology Marilu Gorno Tempini, who will serve as inaugural co-director of the Schwab center, although there has been substantial information from previous research, there is still much to be uncovered about the causes of dyslexia and other learning difficulties and how to best overcome them.

Schwab’s donation was heavily influenced by his own experiences with dyslexia, according to the UC press release. Diagnosed at 40 with dyslexia, Schwab has since been an avid supporter of those struggling with reading and learning difficulties.

UCSF psychology and psychiatry professor and co-director at the Schwab center alongside Tempini, Stephen Hinshaw, said in an email that Schwab’s hope for the facility is to “jump-start research, clinical services, and policy-related efforts in this field.”

“The UCSF and UC Berkeley communities are hopeful that the Center’s ‘innovation fund’ for high-risk/high-yield pilot research will assure cross-campus and cross-disciplinary collaborations across many relevant areas related to learning and learning science,” Hinshaw said in an email.

In addition to the research of treatments, Josephson emphasized the importance of diagnosis as well. He states that although understanding these struggles on a biological basis for new treatments is important, the ability to diagnose at an early age is vital “so that they can succeed later in life.”

While these facilities aim to provide groundbreaking work, more importantly, according to Josephson, they want to offer those struggling with dyslexia a source of hope.

“One of the struggles for those with these differences is that there is no one there to help,” Josephson said. “We want to serve as a beacon to tackle these problems and give hope to these individuals that they are not alone.”

Contact Audry Jeong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @audryjng_dc.