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Contributions of learning and memory brain circuits to language

September 27, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Michael T. Ullman, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Talk will be in person but Zoom option will be provided.
Increasing evidence suggests that two learning and memory brain circuits that pre-date humans—declarative memory and procedural memory—have been co-opted (hijacked) to support the learning, representation, and processing of language. From both human and animal studies, these circuits are well-understood at many levels (e.g., computational, developmental, neuroanatomical, endocrine, genetic, and even how learning and retention in the circuits can be enhanced). Thus, this independent knowledge leads to a wide range of specific testable predictions for language that have the potential to substantially advance our understanding of this domain. Converging evidence from psycholinguistic, neurological, neuroimaging, electrophysiological, and endocrine studies are largely consistent with these predictions. The evidence reveals that lexical (word), grammatical (rule), and other language abilities rely on these circuits in specific ways in both first and second language. Newer evidence suggests that other cognitive domains such as reading and math may also depend on the circuits. The research has implications not only for the evolution of language, but also for for how language learning and use can be improved.
Ullman Bio:
Dr. Ullman is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Neurology and Psychology. He is Director of the Brain and Language Laboratory and the Georgetown EEG/ERP Lab. He teaches undergraduate, masters, PhD, and medical students. He is director of Medical Neuroscience at Georgetown University School of Medicine. His research examines the neurocognition of first and second language, math, reading, and memory; how these domains are affected in various disorders (e.g., autism, dyslexia, developmental language disorder, aphasia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases); and how they may be modulated by factors such as genetic variability, sex, handedness, and aging.


September 27, 2021
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


Room Number 1104 Berkeley Way West