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Emeritus Professor Brian Byrne

BA USyd, PhD McMaster.

Brian Byrne

Chief Investigator

Contact Details

Phone : +61 2 6773 2370
Fax : +61 2 6773 3820
email :
Homepage :

External Address

School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences
University of New England


I completed my undergraduate training at The University of Sydney and my PhD at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada.

My early research interests were in psycholinguistics, with an emphasis on reading acquisition, reading difficulties and language development. In studying reading, my research group has gathered data in the form of laboratory analogues to the acquisition process, in small-scale experiments with preschool and kindergarten children, in larger-scale studies of children in primary grades, and in studies of children at risk for developmental dyslexia. The group successfully developed and conducted randomized control trials of teaching material for preschool children to prepare them for school-based reading instruction. More recently, research has focused on the genetics of literacy and other aspects of academic achievement using twin methodology, in cooperation with staff at the University of Colorado, USA and University of Linköping, Sweden. Currently, my group is harvesting twin data from the Australia-wide NAPLAN assessments to evaluate genetic and environmental influences on these indicators of school progress.

Recent External Appointments

  • Guest Professor, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linkoping University, Sweden. (2011 - 2012)
  • Member, Australian Research Council's College of Experts: Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences. (2010 - 2012)


  • Mona Tobias Award (Learning Difficulties Australia) (2015), Byrne, B. For outstanding contribution to education of people with learning difficulties in Australia.

Recent Grants Awarded

  • ARC CCD Neural Markers Training Scheme (2016) "Neural correlates of letter-sound integration in English adults with dyslexia." Litt, R., Yang, J., Li, Y., Byrne, B., Savage, G., Finkbeiner, M., Sowman, P., Castles, A., Kinoshita, S., Banales, E., & de Lissa, P. ($10,300)
  • ARC Discovery Project Grant [DP150102441] (2015 - 2017) "The behaviour-genetics of NAPLAN data: Increasing power for complex analyses." Coventry, W.L., Byrne, B.J., & Olson, R.K. ($202,700)
  • NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence [APP1079102] (2015 - 2019) "Australian Centre of Excellence in Twin Research." Hopper, J., Craig, J., Mackey, D., Simpson, S., Ferreira, P., Carrick, S., & Byrne, B. ($2,475,361)
  • ARC Discovery Project Grant [DP120102414] (2012 - 2014) "A behaviour-genetic study of the NAPLAN results." Coventry, W., Byrne, B., & Olson, R. ($152,851)
  • ARC Centre of Excellence [CE110001021] (2011 - 2017) "ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders." Crain, S., Rhodes, G., Hodges, J., Coltheart, M., Castles, A., Barnier, A., Brock, J., Byrne, B., Demuth, K., Green, M., Langdon, R., Johnson, B., McArthur, G., Miller, L., Nickels, L., Piguet, O., Savage, G., Thompson, W., Thornton, R. et al. ($21,000,000)
  • National Institutes of Health/National Institute for Child Health & Human Development (2006 - 2012) "Longitudinal Twin Study of Early Reading Development". Olson, R.K. & Byrne, B. ($1,500,000)

Media Engagement

Selected Publications

Book Chapters

  • Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., & Olson, R.K. (2014). Reading and reading acquisition in European languages. In H. Winskel & P. Padakannaya (Eds.), South and Southeast Asian Psycholinguistics (pp. 159-170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Byrne, B., Olson, R.K., & Samuelsson, S. (2013). The longitudinal perspective on developmental disorders. In C.R. Marshall (Ed.), Current Issues in Developmental Disorders (pp. 73-92). Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.
  • Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., & Olson, R.K. (2013). Dyslexia. In A. Holliman (Ed.), The Routledge international companion to educational psychology (pp. 297-306). London, UK: Routledge.


  • Burrows, T., Goldman, S., Olson, R.K., Byrne, B., & Coventry, W.L. (In Press). Associations between selected dietary behaviours and academic achievement: A study of Australian school aged children. Appetite. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2017.05.008
  • Grasby, K.L., Coventry, W.L., Byrne, B., Olson, R.K., & Medland, S.E. (2016). Genetic and environmental influences on literacy and numeracy performance in Australian school children in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9. Behavior Genetics, 46(5), 627-648. doi:10.1007/s10519-016-9797-z
  • Antón-Méndez, I., Ellis, E.M., Coventry, W., Byrne, B., & van Daal, V.H.P. (2015). Markers of success: A study of twins' instructed second language acquisition. Learning and Individual Differences, 42, 44-52. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2015.08.012
  • Grasby, K.L., Byrne, B., & Olson, R.K. (2015). Validity of large-scale reading tests: A phenotypic and behaviour–genetic analysis. Australian Journal of Education, 59(1), 5-21. doi:10.1177/0004944114563775
  • Olson, R.K., Keenan, J., Byrne, B., & Samuelsson, S. (2014). Why do children differ in their development of reading and related skills? Scientific Studies of Reading, 18(1), 38-54. doi:10.1080/10888438.2013.800521
  • Arnett, A.B., Pennington, B.F., Friend, A., Willcutt, E.G., Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., & Olson, R.K. (2013). The SWAN captures variance at both the negative and positive ends of the ADHD symptom dimension. Journal of Attention Disorders, 17, 152-162.
  • Byrne, B., Wadsworth, S., Boehme, K., Talk, A.C., Coventry, W.L., Olson, R.K., Samuelsson, S., & Corley, R. (2013). Multivariate genetic analysis of learning and early reading development. Scientific Studies of Reading, 17, 224-242.
  • Christopher, M.E., Hulslander, J., Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., Keenan, J.M., Pennington, B., DeFries, J.C., Wadsworth, S.J., Willcutt, E.G., & Olson, R.K. (2013). Modeling the etiology of individual differences in early reading development: Evidence for strong genetic influences. Scientific Studies of Reading, 17(5), 350-368. doi:10.1080/10888438.2012.729119
  • Christopher, M.E., Hulslander, J., Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., Keenan, J.M., Pennington, B., DeFries, J.C., Wadsworth, S.J., Willcutt, E.G., & Olson, R.K. (2013). The genetic and environmental etiologies of individual differences in early reading growth in Australia, the United States, and Scandinavia. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 115, 453-467.
  • Elwér, A., Keenan, J.M., Olson, R.K., Byrne, B., & Samuelsson, S. (2013). Longitudinal stability and predictors of poor oral comprehenders and poor decoders. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 115, 497-516.
  • Fujisawa, K.K., Wadsworth, S.J., Kakihana, S., Olson, R.K., DeFries, J.C., Byrne, B., & Ando, J. (2013). A multivariate twin study of early literacy in Japanese kana. Learning and Individual Differences, 24, 160-167. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2012.12.018
  • Peterson, R.L., Pennington, B.F., Samuelsson, S., Byrne, B., & Olson, R.K. (2013). Shared etiology of phonological memory and vocabulary deficits in school-age children. Journal of Speech, Language, & Hearing Research, 56, 1249-1259.
  • Arnett, A.B., Pennington, B.F., Willcutt, E.G., Dmitrieve, J., Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., & Olson, R.K. (2012). A cross-lagged model of the development of ADHD inattention symptoms and rapid naming speed. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40, 1313-1326.
  • Coventry, W.L., Antón-Méndez, I., Ellis, E., Leveson, C., Byrne, B., Van Daal, V., & Ellis, N. (2012). The etiology of individual differences in second language acquisition in Australian school students: A behaviour-genetic study. Language Learning, 62(3), 880-901. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00718.x
  • Pennington, B.F., Santerre-Lemon, L., Rosenberg, J., MacDonald, B., Boada, R., Friend, A., Samuelsson, S., Byrne, B., Willcutt, E.G., & Olson, R.K. (2012). Individual prediction of dyslexia by single vs. multiple deficit models. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121, 212-224.
  • Coventry, W.L., Byrne, B., Olson, R.K., Corley, R., & Samuelsson, S. (2011). Dynamic and static assessment of phonological awareness in preschool: A behavior-genetic study. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44, 322-329.
  • Olson, R.K., Keenan, J., Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., Coventry, W.L., Corley, R., Wadsworth, S., Willcutt, E.G., DeFries, J.C., Pennington, B.F., & Hulslander, J. (2011). Genetic and environmental influences on vocabulary and reading development. Scientific Studies of Reading, 15(1), 26-46.

Conference Presentations, Colloquia, and other presentations

  • Byrne, B., Olson, D., Morrison, F., McBride, C., & Brady, S. (2015, July). Genes matter. So what? Keynote paper presented at the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading (SSSR), Hawaii, USA.
  • Byrne, B. (2014, August). Some contributions from behaviour-genetic studies of academic achievement to educational policy and practise. Paper presented at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders Annual Workshop, Macquarie University, Sydney.
  • Byrne, B. (2013, December). Behaviour-genetic studies of childhood language: Do they help in the search for the originals of language? Invited paper presented at the Evolution of Language Workshop, Macquarie University, Sydney.
  • Byrne, B., Olson, R.K., Samuelsson, S., Coventry, W.L., Elwer, A., & Hulslander, J. (2013, June). Subsample standardization in twin studies of academic achievement. Paper presented at the Behavior Genetics Association annual conference, Marseille, France.
  • Byrne, B. (2011, September). The learning in learning disabilities: Insights from a behaviour-genetic study of twin children. Invited colloquium at the University of New South Wales Colloquium, Sydney.
  • Byrne, B. (2011, August). Early literacy development: Tracking the influences of genes, homes, teachers, schools and countries. Invited colloquium at the Southern Cross University Colloquia, Coffs Harbour.
  • Byrne, B. (2011, May). Reading lessons from twins. Invited colloquium at the Karolinska Institute Colloquia, Stockholm, Sweden.

Further Information

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