Ullén Laboratory

Our research focuses on the neuropsychology of expertise, in particular musical expertise.

Research focus

Our research focuses on the neuropsychology of expertise, in particular musical expertise. A major current effort is the research program "Humans making music" which is a collaboration with Guy Madison at Umeå University, and Nancy Pedersen and Töres Theorell at Karolinska Institutet. Within this program we address a number of questions relating to musical engagement and expertise using a combination of techniques from behavior genetics and twin modelling, experimental psychology, neuroimaging, and physiology.

In different subprojects we thus investigate e.g. musical expertise and its relation to training and other variables: environmental and psychological predictors of musical engagement; relations between musical training, musical aptitudes and cognitive ability; creative achievement in music and other domains; and effects of musical training on neuroanatomy and brain function that are independent of genetic factors. Other research lines concern the learning and performance of sequential motor skills and the neural basis of creativity, which we study both from an individual difference perspective and experimentally, using musical improvisation as a model behavior.

Finally, we investigate the biological basis of psychological flow, and its importance as a motivational factor for long-term musical training.

Group members

Selected publications

Rethinking expertise: A multifactorial gene-environment interaction model of expert performance.
Ullén F, Hambrick DZ, Mosing MA
Psychol Bull 2016 Apr;142(4):427-46

Addressing a Paradox: Dual Strategies for Creative Performance in Introspective and Extrospective Networks.
Pinho A, Ullén F, Castelo-Branco M, Fransson P, de Manzano Ö
Cereb. Cortex 2015 Jun;()

Investigating cognitive transfer within the framework of music practice: genetic pleiotropy rather than causality.
Mosing MA, Madison G, Pedersen NL, Ullén F
Dev Sci 2016 May;19(3):504-12

Practice does not make perfect: no causal effect of music practice on music ability.
Mosing MA, Madison G, Pedersen NL, Kuja-Halkola R, Ullén F
Psychol Sci 2014 Sep;25(9):1795-803

Connecting to create: expertise in musical improvisation is associated with increased functional connectivity between premotor and prefrontal areas.
Pinho AL, de Manzano Ö, Fransson P, Eriksson H, Ullén F
J. Neurosci. 2014 Apr;34(18):6156-63