Brain and Language Lab

Music, Math, and Reading

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

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).

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.

Publications

Conway, C.M., Arciuli, J., Lum, J.A.G., & Ullman, M.T. (2019, online). Seeing problems that may not exist: A reply to West et al.’s questioning of the procedural deficit hypothesis. Developmental Science.

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.

NEUROCOGNITION OF READING

We are also interested in aspects of the neurocognition of reading. As with music and math, we are investigating whether reading may depend importantly on declarative and procedural memory. Our early work in this area relates to dyslexia. We have posited that dyslexia can be explained at least in part by the Procedural circuit Deficit Hypothesis (PDH). We are also currently examining the role of declarative and procedural memory in learning to read in typically developing children, in a collaboration with Laurie Cutting, Stefanie Del Tufo, Sayako Earle, and Tanya Evans.

Publications

Conway, C.M., Arciuli, J., Lum, J.A.G., & Ullman, M.T. (2019, online). Seeing problems that may not exist: A reply to West et al.’s questioning of the procedural deficit hypothesis. Developmental Science.

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.