Neurodevelopmental Disorders

We are interested in language and other domains such as music and math, as well as learning and memory more generally, in a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders. These include specific language impairment (SLI)dyslexiaautismTourette syndromeADHDmath disability, and schizophrenia, as well as other neurodevelopmental disorders. Much of our work on neurodevelopmental disorders is related to the Procedural Deficit Hypothesis and the Declarative Compensation Hypothesis

Specific Language Impairment (SLI)

How can we best characterize the neurocognition of the learning and use of language by individuals with Specific Language Impairment (SLI)? What non-language deficits do they have, and which language deficits might these help explain? How do children with SLI compensate for their deficits, and which brain systems do they use for this compensation? What aspects of cognition might actually be enhanced in the disorder? Our research of SLI attempts to answer these and related questions.

We have proposed the Procedural Deficit Hypothesis, which posits that SLI – including the grammar and other problems found in the disorder – can be largely explained by abnormalities of brain structures underlying procedural memory (Ullman, 2004, Ullman and Pierpont, 2005) and that individuals with the disorder compensate, at least in part, with declarative memory (Ullman and Pierpont, 2005; Ullman and Pullman, 2015).

Evidence suggests that SLI is indeed associated with abnormalities of brain structures underlying procedural memory (Ullman and Pierpont, 2005; Ullman et al., to appear), as well as with learning and consolidation deficits of procedural memory itself (Hedenius et al., 2011; Lum et al., 2012; Lum et al., 2014), that grammar problems correlate with procedural memory impairments in the disorder (Hedenius et al., 2011), and that declarative memory is relatively spared (Lum et al., 2012; Lum et al., 2015) or even enhanced (Lukacs et al., 2017), and compensates for the grammatical difficulties (Lum et al., 2012; Conti-Ramsden et al., 2015Ullman and Pullman, 2015).

Publications:

Lukacs, A., Kemeny, F., Lum, J.A.G., & Ullman, M.T. (2017). Learning and overnight retention in declarative memory in specific language impairment. PLoS ONE 12(1): e0169474.

Lum, J.A.G, Ullman, M.T., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2016). Language disorders. In N.J. Rinehart & J.L. Bradshaw (Eds.), Developmental Disorders of the Brain. Routledge.

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.

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.

Lum, J. A. G., Ullman, M. T., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2015). Verbal declarative memory impairments in specific language impairment are related to working memory deficits. Brain and Language. 142, 76–85.

Lum, J.A.G., Conti-Ramsden, G.M., Morgan, A.T., & Ullman, M.T. (2014). Procedural learning deficits in Specific Language Impairment (SLI): A meta-analysis of serial reaction time task performance. Cortex. 51.1-10.

Lum, J.A.G., Conti-Ramsden, G., and Ullman, M.T. (2013). The role of verbal and non-verbal memory in the Family Pictures subtest: Data from children with specific language impairment. Child Neuropsychology, 19(6). 648-661.

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.

Hedenius, M., Persson, J., Tremblay, A., Adi-Japha, E., Veríssimo, J., Dye, C.D., Alm, P., Jennische, M., Tomblin, J.B., and Ullman, M.T. (2011). Grammar Predicts Procedural Learning and Consolidation Deficits in Children with Specific Language Impairment. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 32(6). 2362-2375.

Ullman, M. T. (2008). The role of memory systems in disorders of language. In B. Stemmer & H. A. Whitaker (Eds.), Handbook of the Neuroscience of Language. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Ltd. pp. 189-198.

Ullman, M. T., and Pierpont, E. I. (2005).Specific language impairment is not specific to language: The procedural deficit hypothesis.Cortex, 41(3), 399-433.

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

van der Lely, H. K. J., and Ullman, M. T. (2001). Past tense morphology in specifically language impaired and normally developing children. Language and Cognitive Processes, 16(2),177-217.

Ullman, M. T., and Gopnik, M. (1999). Inflectional morphology in a family with inherited specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics, 20(1), 51-117.

Dyslexia

We are interested in the neurocognition of language and reading deficits in dyslexia. We have proposed the Procedural Deficit Hypothesis, which posits that dyslexia may be at least partly explained by abnormalities of brain structures underlying procedural memory (Ullman, 2004), leading to reading and other problems, and that individuals with the disorder compensate, at least in part, with declarative memory (Ullman and Pullman, 2015).

Evidence suggests that dyslexia is in fact associated with learning and consolidation deficits of procedural memory (Lum et al., 2013; Hedenius et al., 2013), that declarative memory may be enhanced in the disorder (Hedenius et al., 2013), and that declarative memory compensates for the reading and grammatical difficulties (Hedenius et al., 2013; Ullman and Pullman, 2015). 

Publications:

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.

Hedenius, M., Persson, J., Alm, P.A., Ullman, M.T., Howard, J.H., Howard, D.V., & Jennische, M. (2013). Impaired implicit sequence learning in children with developmental dyslexia. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 34(11), 3924-3935.

Lum, J.A.G., Ullman, M.T., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2013). Procedural learning is impaired in dyslexia: Evidence from a meta-analysis of serial reaction time studies. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 34(10), 3460-3476.

Hedenius, M., Ullman, M.T., Alm, P., Jennische, M., and Persson, J. (2013). Enhanced recognition memory after incidental encoding in children with developmental dyslexia. PLoS ONE. 8(5): e63998.

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

Autism

We are interested in the neurocognition of language and memory in autism spectrum disorder. We have proposed the Procedural Deficit Hypothesis of autism, which posits that the language abnormalities in the disorder may be at least partly explained by abnormalities of brain structures underlying procedural memory (Ullman, 2004; Walenski et al., 2006) and that individuals with autism compensate for language and social deficits with declarative memory (Walenski et al., 2006; Ullman and Pullman, 2015).

Evidence suggests that autism is associated with abnormalities of grammar (Walenski et al., 2006), including impairments in some cases (Walenski et al., 2006) and speeded grammatical processing in others (Walenski et al., 2014). It is not yet clear why some findings suggest grammatical difficulties, while others suggest speeded and thus in some manner enhanced grammatical processing. Additionally, lexical abilities may be enhanced in children with autism, perhaps because of underlying strengths in declarative memory (Walenski et al., 2008). 

Publications:

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). Powerful memory system may compensate for autism's deficits [Newsletter column]. Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative Newsletter (March 17). 

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

Walenski, M., Mostofsky, S. H. & Ullman, M. T. (2014). Inflectional morphology in high-functioning autism: Evidence for speeded grammatical processing. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 8, 1607-1621.

Ullman, M. T. (2008). The role of memory systems in disorders of language. In B. Stemmer & H. A. Whitaker (Eds.), Handbook of the Neuroscience of Language. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Ltd. pp. 189-198.

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.

Walenski, M., Tager-Flusberg, H., and Ullman, M. T. (2006). Language in Autism. In S. O. Moldin and J. L. R. Rubenstein (Eds.), Understanding Autism: From Basic Neuroscience to Treatment. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor and Francis Books.

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

Tourette Syndrome 

We are interested in the neurocognition of language and memory in Tourette syndrome. We have suggested that procedural memory shows abnormalities (Ullman et al., 2008Walenski et al., 2007), while declarative memory plays a compensatory role in the disorder (Ullman and Pullman, 2015). Evidence suggests learning in procedural memory is normal or enhanced in Tourette syndrome (Takacs et al., under review; Takacs et al., under review), and that rule-governed grammatical composition, which seems to depend on procedural memory, is speeded in both morphology (Walenski et al., 2007) and phonology (Dye et al., 2016). 

Publications:

Dye, C.D., Walenski, M., Mostofsky, S. H., & Ullman, M.T. (2016). A verbal strength in children with Tourette syndrome? Evidence from a non-word repetition task. Brain and Language. 160, pp. 61-70.

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

Ullman, M. T. (2008). The role of memory systems in disorders of language. In B. Stemmer & H. A. Whitaker (Eds.), Handbook of the Neuroscience of Language. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Ltd. pp. 189-198.

Walenski, M., Mostofsky, S. H., & Ullman, M. T. (2007). Speeded processing of grammar and tool knowledge in Tourette's syndrome. Neuropsychologia, 45. 2447-2460.

ADHD

We are interested in the neurocognition of language and memory in ADHD. We have suggested that procedural memory shows abnormalities (Ullman, 2004), while declarative memory plays a compensatory role in the disorder (Ullman and Pullman, 2015).

Publications:

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

Math Disability 

Math disability (MD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder of math. We have proposed a new explanatory account of MD that may further our understanding of the disorder (Evans and Ullman, 2016). According to the procedural deficit hypothesis (PDH) of MD, abnormalities of brain structures underlying the procedural memory system should lead to difficulties with math skills learned in this system, as well as of other functions that depend on these brain structures. The account is motivated by the high comorbidity between MD and language disorders such as dyslexia (and possibly SLI) that may be explained in part by the PDH, and a likelihood that automatized math skills are learned in part in procedural memory. In Evans and Ullman (2016), we first lay out the PDH of MD, and then present specific predictions, examining the existing literature for each while pointing out weaknesses and gaps to be addressed by future research. Although we do not claim that the PDH is likely to fully explain MD, we do suggest that the hypothesis could have substantial explanatory power, and that it provides a useful theoretical framework that may advance our understanding of the disorder.

Publications:

Evans, T.M., & Ullman, M.T. (2016). An extension of the procedural deficit hypothesis from developmental language disorders to mathematical disability. Frontiers in Psychology. 7, 1318.

Schizophrenia 

We are interested in the neurocognition of language, music and memory in schizophrenia. In one study we found evidence for grammatical impairments in the disorder,  but spared lexical abilities (Walenski et al., 2010). Interestingly, in a case study of a musician with the disorder, we found impairments of idiosyncratic aspects of music but not of rule-governed aspects of music (Skelley et al., 2009). Further work is needed to examine these patterns. 

Publications:

Walenski, M., Weickert, T.W., Maloof, C.J., Ullman, M.T. (2010). Grammatical processing in schizophrenia: Evidence from morphology. Neuropsychologia, 48. 262-269.

S.L. Skelley, R.A. Miranda, M.T. Ullman, J.A. Apud, D.R. Weinberger and B. Elvevaag. (2009) Where words fail, music speaks: Isolated memory processes in a musical patient with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 35(4). 197-199.

Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders 

We are also interested in language and memory in other neurodevelopmental disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), phenylketonuria, and Williams syndrome.

Publications:

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.