Music and Math

We are interested in the neurocognition of music and math. In particular, we examine extensions of the declarative/procedural model to these two domains.

Neurocognition of Music 

What are the neurocognitive bases of music, and how are they similar to or different from those underlying language? We have proposed that, like language, music depends importantly on declarative and procedural memory (Miranda and Ullman, 2007; Miles et al., 2016). Our empirical work has revealed a similar rule/memory distinction in music that has been found in language, consistent with a dependence of rule-governed aspects of music on procedural memory, and idiosyncratic aspects of music on declarative memory (Miranda and Ullman, 2007). Additionally, as would be expected if idiosyncratic aspects of music such as familiar melodies depend on declarative memory, women's declarative memory advantages (see Effects of Sex Differences) seem to extend to a female advantage at recognizing familiar melodies (Miles et al., 2016). 


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). 

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.

Miranda, R.A., Ullman, M.T. (2007). Double dissociation between rules and memory in music: An event-related potential study, NeuroImage, 38(2), 331-345.

Neurocognition of math

We are interested in aspects of the neurocognition of math. We are examining whether, like language and perhaps music, the learning, knowledge, and processing of math may depend importantly on declarative and procedural memory. Our initial work in this area entails our proposal of the Procedural Deficit Hypothesis (PDH) of mathematical disability. In Evans and Ullman (2016), we posit that the neurodevelopmental disorder of mathematical disability, including developmental dyscalculia, may be at least partly explained by abnormalities of brain structures underlying the procedural memory system, which  should lead to difficulties with math skills learned in this system, as well as of other functions that depend on these brain structures.  


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.