Brain and Language Lab

Enhancement and Therapy

We are interested in language enhancement and therapy: first, in enhancing language learning, retention, and use in healthy learners, in particular those learning a second or additional language (Ullman, 2020; Ullman & Lovelett, 2018; Karatas et al., 2021); and second, in therapeutic approaches for improving language learning or relearning, retention, and use in individuals with various disorders (Ullman, 2004; Ullman & Pullman, 2015; Ullman et al., 2020).

Our predictions derive primarily from the declarative/procedural model. Strengthening the learning, retention, and use of information in declarative and procedural memory is quite well studied in humans and non-human animals, with a variety of behavioral, pharmacological and other approaches having been found to have positive outcomes. These interventions are thus predicted to also improve language, as well as reading, math, and music, given their apparent dependence on the two memory systems. Our work focuses on behavioral techniques (Ullman & Lovelett, 2018; Karatas et al., 2021), though we are also interested in pharmacological and other approaches.

We also investigate the enhancement of other aspects of cognition. In a series of studies in Lombok, Indonesia, a large number of pregnant women were given either multiple micronutrients or only iron and folate. Multiple micronutrient supplementation led to improved cognition in the pregnant women themselves (Prado et al., PLoS ONE, 2012) and in their children, both at ages 3 to 4 (Prado et al.,Pediatrics, 2012), and still even at ages 9 to 12 (Prado et al., 2017). In general, the strongest effects were found for undernourished or anemic mothers. Socio-economic factors also played important roles in improving cognition.


Karatas, N. B., Özemir, O., Lovelett, J. T., Demir, B., Erkol, K. Veríssimo, J., Erçetin, G., and Ullman, M.T. (2021). Improving second language vocabulary learning and retention by leveraging memory enhancement techniques: a multidomain pedagogical approach. Language Teaching Research, 13621688211053525.

Ullman, M. T., & Lovelett, J. T. (2018). Implications of the declarative/procedural model for improving second language learning: The role of memory enhancement techniques. Second Language Research, 34(1), 39-65.

Prado, E. L., Sebayang, S. K., Apriatni, M., Adawiyah, S. R., Hidayati, N., Islamiyah, A., Siddiq, S., Harefa, B., Lum, J., Alcock, K. J., Ullman, M. T., Muadz, H., & Shankar, A. H. (2017). Maternal multiple micronutrient supplementation and other biomedical and socio-environmental influences on children’s cognition at age 9–12 years in Indonesia: Follow-up of the SUMMIT randomised trial. Lancet Global Health, 5, e217–28.

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 (pp. 953-68). Elsevier.

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

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

Ullman, M. T. (2015). The declarative/procedural model: A neurobiologically motivated theory of first and second language. In B. VanPatten & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (2nd ed., pp. 135-158). Routledge.

Prado, E. L., Alcock, K. J., Muadz, H., Ullman, M. T., & Shankar, A. H. for the SUMMIT Study Group. (2012). Maternal multiple micronutrient supplementation in pregnancy and child cognition: A randomized trial in Indonesia. Pediatrics, 130(3), e536-546.

Prado, E. L., Ullman, M. T., Muadz, H., Alcock, K.J., Shankar, A. H., & the SUMMIT Study Group. (2012). The effect of maternal multiple micronutrient supplementation on cognition and mood during pregnancy and postpartum in Indonesia: A randomized trial. PLoS ONE, 7(3), e32519.