Individual Differences

We investigate individual differences in language and memory, as well as variation within individuals, as a function individual variability in learning and memory, as well as between and within subject factors such as sex, genetic variation, and endocrine changes. 

Individual Variability in Learning and Memory 

We examine correlations between language abilities and learning and memory abilities. We focus on investigating the relation between lexical and grammatical abilities on the one hand, and learning abilities in declarative and procedural memory, on the other. Based on the declarative/procedural model, we predict correlations between declarative memory and lexical and perhaps grammatical abilities, and between procedural memory and grammatical abilities (Ullman, 2016). Whether grammar correlates with procedural and/or declarative memory should be a function of multiple factors that modulate declarative and/or procedural memory abilities (Ullman, 2004, 2015, 2016; Ullman and Pullman, 2015). We also look at correlations between language and working memory abilities. 

We have found (Lum et al., 2012; Conti-Ramsden et al., 2015) that in both typically developing (TD) children and those with specific language impairment (SLI), declarative memory correlates with lexical abilities, supporting the hypothesis that lexical knowledge must be learned at least in part in declarative memory. In contrast, grammar correlates with procedural memory in TD children, but with declarative memory in SLI children, supporting the hypotheses that grammar generally depends on procedural memory, but in SLI declarative memory compensate for grammatical difficulties. Working memory was found to correlate with neither lexical nor grammatical abilities in either TD children or children with SLI. In other work, we are currently looking at correlations between language and memory in first language in adults (Hamrick et al., in preparation-a), and in a meta-analysis of published language/memory correlation studies in both first language in children and second language in adults (Hamrick et al., in preparation-b). 

Publications: 

Conti-Ramsden, G., Ullman, M. T., & Lum, J. A. G. (2015). The relation between receptive grammar and procedural, declarative, and working memory in specific language impairment. Frontiers in Psychology. 6, 1090.

Lum, J.A.G., Conti-Ramsden, G., Page, D., and Ullman, M.T. (2012). Working, declarative and procedural memory in specific language impairment. Cortex. 48(9). 1138-1154.

Effects of Sex Differences

Evidence from studies of human and non-human animals suggest that females tend to show advantages at declarative memory, as compared to males (Ullman et al., 2008). This sex difference may be at least partly explained by estrogen, which enhances the functionality of declarative memory. This leads to the following predictions for language (Ullman, 2004; Ullman et al., 2008). Girls and women should show advantages, as compared to boys and men, at lexical abilities, which appear to necessarily depend on declarative memory. Additionally, those functions, such as grammar, that can (at least to some extent) be learned and processed in declarative as well as procedural memory, should depend more on declarative memory in females, relative to males. Moreover, females should be more successful at compensating with declarative memory than males for deficits of grammar and other such functions (Ullman and Pullman, 2015).  

Our empirical studies have found evidence for enhanced lexical abilities in girls as compared to boys (Walenski et al., 2008) and enhanced melody recognition in women as compared to men (Miles et al., 2016); greater frequency or imageability effects (which suggest lexical storage) for rule-governed complex forms in girls and women than boys and men, in English and Spanish (Ullman et al., 2002Prado and Ullman, 2009; Dye et al., 2013); greater over-regularization in girls than boys, apparently due to girls generalizing in associative lexical memory from stored similar forms (e.g., generalizing from flow-flowed to grow-growed; Hartshorne and Ullman, 2006); a greater dependence of rule-governed complex forms on lexical/semantic than grammatical brain processes, as suggested by event-related potentials (Ullman et al., 2002; Steinhauer and Ullman, 2002); retrieval from memory of rule-governed complex forms in elderly women but not men (Ullman et al., 2002; Estabrooke et al., 2002); and compensation for grammatical impairments by lexical/declarative memory in female but not male patients with Parkinson’s disease (Ullman et al., 2002). 

Publications:

Miles, S., Miranda, R. A., & Ullman, M. T. (2016). Sex differences in music: A female advantage at recognizing familiar melodies. Frontiers in Psychology. 7, 278.    (Supplemental Data). 

Ullman, M.T. and Pullman, M.Y. (2015). Adapt and overcome: Can a single brain system compensate for autism, dyslexia and OCD? Scientific American Mind. July/August 2015, 24-25.

Sandberg, K., Umans, J. G., and *The Georgetown Consensus Conference Work Group. (2015) Recommendations concerning the new U.S. National Institutes of Health initiative to balance the sex of cells and animals in preclinical research. The FASEB Journal. 29, 1646-1652. *Work Group Member: M.T. Ullman. 

Ullman, M.T. and Pullman, M.Y. (2015). A compensatory role for declarative memory in neurodevelopmental disorders.  Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 51, 205-222.

Dye, C.D., Walenski, M., Prado, E., Mostofsky, S.H., & Ullman, M.T. (2013). Children's computation of complex linguistic forms: A study of frequency and imageability effects. PLos ONE. 8(9), e74683.

Babcock, L., Stowe, J.C., Maloof, C.J., Brovetto, C., and Ullman, M.T. (2012). The storage and composition of inflected forms in adult-learned second language: A study of the influence of length of residence, age of arrival, sex, and other factors. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 15(4). 820-840.

E.L. Prado, M.T. Ullman. (2009). Can imageability help us draw the line between storage and composition? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 110(1). 849-866.

Ullman, M.T., Miranda, R.A., and Travers, M.L. (2008). Sex differences in the neurocognition of language. In J. B. Becker, K. J. Berkley, N. Gearyet al. (Eds.), Sex on the Brain: From Genes to Behavior. NY NY, Oxford University Press: 291-309.

Walenski, M., Mostofsky, S. H., Larson, J. C. G., and M.T. Ullman (2008). Enhanced picture naming in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 38. 1395-99.

Hartshorne, J. K., and Ullman, M. T. (2006). Why girls say "holded" more than boys. Developmental Science, 9(1), 21-32.

Ullman, M. T. (2005). A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective on Second Language Acquisition: The Declarative/Procedural Model. In C. Sanz (Ed.), Mind and Context in Adult Second Language Acquisition: Methods, Theory, and Practice (pp. 141-178). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Ullman, M. T. (2004). Contributions of neural memory circuits to language: The declarative/procedural model. Cognition, 92(1-2), 231-270.

Estabrooke, I. V., Mordecai, K., Maki, P., and Ullman, M. T. (2002). The effect of sex hormones on language processing. Brain and Language, 83. 143-146.

Steinhauer, K. and Ullman, M. T. (2002). Consecutive ERP effects of morpho-phonology and morpho-syntax. Brain and Language, 83. 62-65.

Ullman, M. T., Estabrooke, I. V., Steinhauer, K., Brovetto, C., Pancheva, R., Ozawa, K., Mordecai, K., Maki, P. (2002). Sex differences in the neurocognition of language. Brain and Language, 83, 141-143.

Effects of Genetic Variability 

Interest in the genetics of language has increased dramatically in recent years. Different alleles (versions) of the same gene often vary in their functionality. This variation can help explain disorders as well as subtle phenotypic differences well within the normal range. One can take advantage of such variation to examine the genetic basis of differences in language and other cognitive functions between individuals or groups. Of particular interest to us, according to the declarative/procedural model variability in genes that modulate declarative memory and/or procedural memory functionality should analogously modulate language abilities (Ullman, 2016). In particular, genes playing roles in declarative memory may analogously affect both lexical and grammatical abilities, while genes playing roles in procedural memory may affect grammatical abilities. We are currently investigating these predictions, as well as other aspects of the genetics of language and cognition. 

Publications:

Ullman, M. T. (2016). The declarative/procedural model: A neurobiological model of language learning, knowledge and use. In G. Hickok & S. A. Small (Eds.), The Neurobiology of Language. Elsevier. pp. 953-68.

Ullman, M.T. and Pullman, M.Y. (2015). Adapt and overcome: Can a single brain system compensate for autism, dyslexia and OCD? Scientific American Mind. July/August 2015, 24-25.

Ullman, M.T. and Pullman, M.Y. (2015). A compensatory role for declarative memory in neurodevelopmental disorders. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 51, 205-222.

Ullman, M.T. (2013). The declarative/procedural model of language. In H. Pashler (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Mind (pp. 224-226). Sage Publications, Los Angeles.

Effects of Endocrine Changes 

How do hormones, and sex hormones in particular, affect language learning and use? How does the variation of sex hormones within and between subjects affect language? Do the natural fluctuations of estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones during the menstrual cycle affect language? Does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) modulate language processing? We are currently investigating these and related questions. 

Publications:

Ullman, M. T. (2016). The declarative/procedural model: A neurobiological model of language learning, knowledge and use. In G. Hickok & S. A. Small (Eds.), The Neurobiology of Language. Elsevier. pp. 953-68.

Ullman, M.T. and Pullman, M.Y. (2015). Adapt and overcome: Can a single brain system compensate for autism, dyslexia and OCD? Scientific American Mind. July/August 2015, 24-25.

Ullman, M.T. and Pullman, M.Y. (2015). A compensatory role for declarative memory in neurodevelopmental disorders. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 51, 205-222.

Ullman, M.T. (2013). The declarative/procedural model of language. In H. Pashler (Ed.),Encyclopedia of the Mind (pp. 224-226). Sage Publications, Los Angeles.

Ullman, M.T., Miranda, R.A., and Travers, M.L. (2008). Sex differences in the neurocognition of language. In J. B. Becker, K. J. Berkley, N. Gearyet al. (Eds.), Sex on the Brain: From Genes to Behavior. NY NY, Oxford University Press: 291-309.

Ullman, M. T. (2004).Contributions of neural memory circuits to language: The declarative/procedural model. Cognition, 92(1-2), 231-270.

Estabrooke, I. V., Mordecai, K.,Maki, P., and Ullman, M. T. (2002). The effect of sex hormones on language processing. Brain and Language, 83, 143-146.