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Prof. Michael Ullmann (Georgetown University): Language learning relies on brain circuits that predate humans: Evidence from typical and atypical language development

25.11.2020 | 16:00 c.t. - 18:00

On the 25th of November Prof. Michael Ullmann (Department of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Neurology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC) will give a visitors talk.

Title: Language learning relies on brain circuits that predate humans: Evidence from typical and atypical language development


Increasing evidence suggests that language learning depends importantly on general-purpose learning circuits that pre-existed humans. In particular, research indicates that children learn native languages and adults learn additional languages in evolutionarily ancient circuits that are found in other vertebrates, and are used for a wide range of tasks. For example, birds rely on this circuitry to remember where they stored their hidden acorns, while rats use it to follow rule-governed grooming sequences. Converging evidence from psycholinguistic, neurological, neuroimaging, and electrophysiological studies suggests that humans also rely on these declarative and procedural learning systems for their lexical (word) and grammatical (rule-governed combination) abilities, in specific ways in both first and second language. Newer evidence also suggests that aspects of reading and math may be learned in these systems. Moreover, abnormalities in or compensation by these systems can help explain atypical language and other functions, for example in developmental language disorder and dyslexia. The research has implications not only for understanding the biology and evolution of language and how it is learned, but also for how language learning can be improved, both for people learning a second language and for those with developmental and other disorders.

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. 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, Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases); and how they may be modulated by factors such as genetic variability, sex, handedness, and aging.

Zeit & Ort

25.11.2020 | 16:00 c.t. - 18:00

Rost- und Silberlaube
Habelschwerdter Allee 45