Dr Dianne Newbury

BSc, DPhil

Senior Lecturer

Department of Biological and Medical Sciences


I am a Senior Lecturer on the MSc Medical Genetics and Genomics programme and I am principal investigator of a research lab in the Department of Health and Life Sciences.

Areas of expertise: 

  • Gene mapping (linkage, association, sequencing)
  • Speech and language disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

Member of the Children and Young People Network.


UoA5: Genetics and Genomics

Research in my lab centres around genetic contributions to speech, language and Communication Disorders (SLCDs). A recent study found that, at school entry in the UK, approximately 10% of children are affected by speech, language or communication impairments (Norbury et al., 2016). As a group these children are less likely to meet educational targets (Norbury et al., 2015) and more likely to display symptoms of social, emotional and behavioural problems when compared to their peers (Norbury et al., 2016).

But yet, we do not know why some children have language difficulties or how these difficulties relate to other aspects of neurodevelopment and behaviour. In our lab, we are trying to identify genetic factors that might play a role in these disorders. We investigate this problem through a mixture of research questions and by studying individuals, families and populations.

This research is important because it will help us to understand why some children have language difficulties and what brain processes are important in language learning. It may allow us to identify new kinds of language disorders and will clarify the relationships between language impairment and other developmental disorders.

Research group membership

Hayley Mountford (Post-doc) p0083144

Dr Aditi Pradhan (Post-doc) p0044407

Lidiya Talbot (PhD student) 16034238

Jessica Peixihno (PhD student) 19034100


Research projects

Studies show that developmental language disorders run in families - a brother or sister of someone who has already been diagnosed will have an increased risk of developing the disorder themselves. There are two possible situations which may explain this observation:

  1. something in the family environment causes the language disorder; or
  2. developmental language disorders are genetic and is therefore caused (at least in part) by the genes passed on from parents to children.

Although there is strong evidence for the role of a genetic component in language disorder, we do not know which genes contribute to this disorder or how the inheritance of language problems work. In most cases, it is likely that several genes combine to bring about a heightened risk of disorder. This is known as a complex genetic disorder. Working closely with other collaborators active in this field, we aim to identify specific genetic variants that cause this predisposition and to investigate the kinds of biological processes that they take part in.

The work in our lab is split into different project areas. You can find out more about each area on our research website.

Projects as Principal Investigator, or Lead Academic if project is lead by another Institution

  • Using gene networks to identify genes that contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders (01/06/2021 - 31/05/2022), funded by: Rosetrees Trust, funding amount received by Brookes: £9,966
  • Scaling up effective language interventions in inner city schools (09/09/2019 - 17/05/2022), funded by: British Academy, funding amount received by Brookes: £74,454
  • Speaking backwards - sdrawkcaB gnikaepS (01/05/2018 - 30/10/2021), funded by: Leverhulme Trust, funding amount received by Brookes: £232,412

Research impact

Our research impacts upon our understanding of the biological processes underlying speech and language development. This will be relevant to families of affected individuals and has impact upon research in psychology, neuroscience and education.


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Teaching and supervision

Modules taught

I teach on:

BIOS4004 - Scientific Skills
BIOS4005 - Professional and experimental skills
BIOL5002 - Interrogating Genomes
BIOS5011 - Molecular Biology
BIOS5012 - Genetics
BIOS6007 - Molecular Medicine
BIOS6008 - Evidence-based medicine
BIOS6009 - Neuroscience
BIOS6010 - Undergraduate research projects
BIOS7004 - Human Genetic Disease
BIOS7006 - Clinical Genetics and Diagnostics (ML)
BIOS7009 - Masters research project (ML)

ML = I am Module Leader


MSc Medical Genetics and Genomics programme