PhD (Brain & Cognitive Sciences) 1993
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
New Research Building, EP07
Dr. Ullman is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Psychology and Neurology. He is Director of the Brain and Language Lab, and Director of the Georgetown EEG/ERP Laboratory.
The Brain and Language Lab aims to elucidate how language is learned, represented, and processed in the mind and brain. We focus especially on understanding how language learning and use depend on evolutionarily ancient learning and memory systems in the brain: declarative memory and procedural memory, which are respectively rooted in the hippocampus and the basal ganglia. We study both native and later-learned language/bilingualism. We are also interested in the neurocognition of math, reading, and music, and whether and how these also depend on the two learning and memory systems. We investigate between and within subject differences in the neurocognition of language and other domains, based on factors such as genetic variation, endocrine fluctuations, sex and handedness differences, and individual differences in learning and memory abilities. We test our hypotheses using a set of complementary behavioral, neurological, neuroimaging ((f)MRI), electrophysiological (ERPs), and other approaches (e.g., genetic, endocrine, pharmacological). We are interested in the normal acquisition and processing of language and other domains, as well as the breakdown, recovery and rehabilitation of these processes in a variety of developmental and later-onset disorders, including Developmental Language Disorder (i.e., Specific Language Impairment), dyslexia, autism, Tourette syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and aphasia. A new area of research investigates how language and other cognitive abilities are affected in the aging brain. This work is being led by Research Scholar Jana Reifegerste, with the close involvement and support of undergraduates Lauren Russell and Walid Khan, as well as Denas Kisonas, an Integrative Neuroscience Masters Student in our lab in 2019-2020.
The Georgetown EEG/ERP Laboratory provides a state-of-the-art facility for the acquisition of human electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs). The lab’s Neuroscan SynAmps2 EEG/ERP system can be used for up to 64-channel EEG/ERP acquisition. Additionally, we have a 64 channel BrainAmp MR Plus system from Brain Products that allows one to carry out simultaneous EEG/ERP and fMRI acquisition in Georgetown’s Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging (CFMI) 3T Siemens Magnetom Trio scanner.
“We had not expected this interesting finding,” says Michael Ullman, director of the Brain and Language Laboratory at Georgetown University Medical Center and senior author of the study that found boys with high-functioning autism could process a key grammar task faster than boys without autism.”