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Language-driven anticipatory eye movements in virtual reality
Aug 10, 2017
The question whether we predict upcoming words when we hear somebody speak is often studied by placing participants in front of a computer screen and measuring their eye movements as they look at objects on that screen. The ecological validity of such paradigms remains questionable, for instance because these computer experiments use two-dimensional stimuli that are mere abstractions of real-world objects. more >
Veni grant for David Peeters
Jul 28, 2017
David Peeters, Research Staff member of the Neurobiology of Language Department at the MPI, has been awarded a prestigious Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). In his research, Peeters uses virtual reality to get a better understanding of the neurobiological basis of human language and communication. more >
MPI shares their set of 3-D virtual reality objects with the world
Jun 28, 2017
The use of immersive virtual reality as a research tool is rapidly increasing in numerous scientific disciplines. By combining ecological validity with strict experimental control, this novel method in the language sciences provides the potential to develop and test scientific theories in rich environments that closely resemble everyday settings more >
Influences on the magnitude of syntactic priming
May 29, 2017
We adapt our language to better match that of our conversation partner in many different settings. This thesis investigates certain conditions in which this adaptation effect is stronger (or weaker) and why. Evelien Heyselaar will defend her thesis on June 2nd, at 10:30am, at the Aula of the Radboud University, Nijmegen. more >
An inverted U-shaped priming effect
May 12, 2017
Linguistic priming, the phenomenon in which we start to speak like the person we are speaking to, is a well-established behavioural characteristic in the dialogue field. But why do we do this? What is function behind changing our speaking-style to better match that of our partner? One theory is that it has to do with likeability. A recent paper by Heyselaar and colleagues investigated whether this is indeed the case. more >
Explorations of Beta-band Neural Oscillations During Language Comprehension: Sentence Processing and Beyond
May 02, 2017
How does the human brain coordinate different sources of information during reading comprehension, and what is the precise role of beta-band neural oscillations in this process? Ashley Lewis will defend his PhD thesis on this topic, May 8th, at 14:30 at the Aula of the Radboud University, Nijmegen. more >
Getting under your skin
Apr 12, 2017
How much does the way a story is told, e.g. from the perspective of a character or an all-knowing narrator, influence how we experience it? Franziska Hartung will defend her thesis on this topic, April 13th, at 10:30am at the Aula of Radboud University, Nijmegen. more >
Talking Sense: the behavioural and neural correlates of sound symbolism
Apr 10, 2017
Why do some sounds just seem to fit right? Gwilym Lockwood’s thesis entitled "Talking Sense: The Behavioural and Neural Correlates of Sound Symbolism" has extensively investigated this question. He will defend his thesis on April 12th, at 2:30pm at the Aula of Radboud University, Nijmegen. more >
The ‘ignored’ speech is not ignored
Apr 03, 2017
Most listening environments are filled with various types of background noise, and the most troubling noise is often the competing speech heard in the public spaces, like restaurants, bus stations, and classrooms. The comprehension of the target speech can be degraded by the other interfering signals. Given the plentiful features encoded in the background sounds, masking could occur at different levels of the speech processing hierarchy. A recent published study by Bohan Dai and colleagues tried to disentangle the effects related to acoustic processing from those related to linguistic analysis. more >
Finding Common Ground: On the neural mechanisms of communicative language production
Mar 27, 2017
What happens in your brain when you talk to someone? That is the central question in Flora Vanlangendonck’s PhD thesis ‘Finding common ground: On the neural mechanisms of communicative language production’. She will defend her thesis on March 29th at 12.30 at the Aula of Radboud University. more >
Linking language to the visual world
Mar 21, 2017
A fundamental aspect of human communication is that it allows us to refer to the things in the world around us. Indeed we often talk about the things in our immediate environment. Our hands help us do so, by pointing out the exact object, person, or event we are talking about. It has long been unclear how the brain integrates auditory (speech) and visual (pointing gestures, object) information in very common everyday situations in which a speaker refers to an object by using speech and a pointing gesture. A recently published fMRI study by David Peeters and colleagues sheds light on this important issue. more >
New PhD Students
Mar 14, 2017
The Department has also gained new PhD students! We asked them to give a brief summary of the topic of their theses. more >
New Post-Doc Staff
Feb 28, 2017
Since September 2016 the department has gained 5 new Post-Doctoral fellows investigating different areas with exciting new techniques. Read more for a summary of what they aim to accomplish during their time in the department. more >
Language processing in a conversation context
Feb 16, 2017
On Monday February 20th, Lotte Schoot will defend her thesis entitled "Language processing in a conversation context" at the Radboud Aula at 10:30am. All interested parties are welcome to attend. Below is a short summary of the content of her thesis. more >
Brain oscillations in language
Feb 08, 2017
Understanding written and spoken language is essential for daily life, but how does the brain make this possible? Nietzsche Lam’s thesis examined which frequencies and areas are responsible for individual facets of language comprehension, and how they work together. Lam will defend her thesis on February 10th at 10:30 at the Aula of Radboud University Nijmegen. more >
Music and language comprehension
Feb 07, 2017
What happens in the brain when we understand language and hear music? Richard Kunert looked at whether the structure of music and language is partially processed by the same brain systems. Based on his research it turns out that structurally challenging sentences could alter harmonic judgments. Kunert will defend his thesis on February the 10th at 12:30h at the aula of the Radboud University Nijmegen. more >
Virtual Reality as a Tool for Cognitive Science
09:30-17:30 Jan 13, 2017
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen Friday January 13th, 2017 more >
Dutch Spinoza documentary featuring MPI director Peter Hagoort awarded the Golden Dolphin
Nov 02, 2016
The Dutch documentary 'Spinoza, een vrije denker' (English: ‘Spinoza, a free thinker’) was honored with the Golden Dolphin award in Cannes. MPI director Peter Hagoort features in this documentary, providing a neurobiological perspective on Spinoza’s philosophical questions about who we are and where we could find something that resembles a ‘soul’ in the human body. more >
Beep, click, sizzle! How does the brain process onomatopoeia?
Aug 24, 2016
The word TREE does not look like an actual tree, nor does it sound like one. Indeed many words in Germanic languages like English and Dutch possess a largely arbitrary link between their form and their meaning. Onomatopoeic words like beep, click, and sizzle are notable exceptions: they sound like what they mean. A recent study by David Peeters investigated how the human brain processes such onomatopoeic words when hearing them. more >
Mante Nieuwland
I completed my BA, MA and PhD Cum Laude degrees in Psychology all from the University of Amsterdam. My PhD project on semantic and referential aspects of discourse comprehension was supervised by Jos van Berkum. I've subsequently worked as a Rubicon post-doctoral researcher at Tufts University with Gina Kuperberg (2007-2009), as a staff scientist at the Basque Center for Cognition, Brain and Language (2010-2012) and as a Chancellor's Fellow/Tenured Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh (2012-2016). I currently serve on the editorial board of Journal of Memory and Language and of Cognition. I am particularly interested in how the brain achieves high-level aspects of language processing, such as pragmatic and referential meaning, and in the role of incrementality and prediction in language comprehension. more >
Does clickbait apply to academia?
Aug 12, 2016
A recent study in The Winnower found that journal articles whose titles contain clickbait-y characteristics are shared more widely. Analysing over 2000 titles from articles published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2013 and 2014, revealed that positive framing and more interesting phrasing lead to more attention online. more >
People are sensitive to the meanings of foreign words, and some people are more sensitive than others
Jul 29, 2016
Languages across the world are use similar sounds to express similar meanings. This gives people an advantage when learning words in a language they've never heard before. In a new study, MPI researchers Gwilym Lockwood, Peter Hagoort, and Mark Dingemanse taught Japanese words to Dutch people with no knowledge of Japanese. People learned the words better if they learned the real Dutch translation than if they learned the opposite Dutch translation. This is because people can recognise the possibly universal cross-modal correspondences between the sounds of a word and what that word means. Brain measurements also showed that the more sensitive people were to cross-model correspondences, the harder they found it to suppress the conflicting information from the Japanese words learned with their opposite Dutch translations. more >
How narrative perspective influences reading
Jul 29, 2016
How does the style in which a novel is written influence you reading experience? In a recently published study, we looked at the influence of the perspective from which a story is narrated on experiential effects of literary reading. We found evidence that readers report to get more immersed into stories told from first person perspective and that they like these stories better. During reading stories in third person perspective we found higher activation of the sympathetic nervous system. more >
Our brain benefits from an overlap in grammar when learning a foreign language
Jun 29, 2016
Researchers from Nijmegen have for the first time captured images of the brain during the initial hours and days of learning a new language. They use an artificial language with real structures to show how new linguistic information is integrated into the same brain areas used for your native language. more >
Julia Uddén awarded with 5-year grant to study how the teenage brain supports development of communication skills
Jun 15, 2016
The language learning process does not end when the child masters vocabulary and grammar. Adolescents continue to learn how to use language effectively in different contexts. This learning process must be supported by development of the adolescent brain, but there is yet no research done on this topic. Julia Uddén aims to fill this gap, and was just awarded 5 years of funding from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences to pursue this research. more >
Relating genetic variation to brain volume
Jun 08, 2016
How does the gene CNTNAP2 relate to structural variations in the brain? In our new publication, in press in Brain and Language, we looked at the association between a CNTNAP2 variant and grey matter volume in a large group of more than 1700 subjects. We found associations of CNTNAP2 with grey matter in a region in the left superior occipital gyrus, while earlier reported associations in other brain regions were not replicated. more >
Putting things in new places: your native language influences what you expect to hear in your second language
Jun 06, 2016
Languages differ in how they describe simple acts of placement, e.g., putting a cup of coffee on the table. The Dutch placement verb 'zetten' for example, characterizes objects as ‘standing’ (vertical orientation). Other languages leave this position feature unspecified. Van Bergen and Flecken, Neurobiology of Language department, show that when you are listening to descriptions of placement events in your second language, you make predictions about what you will hear based on your native language. more >
New Post-Doc: Alexis Hervais-Adelman
May 17, 2016
The human speech processing system needs to be sufficiently adaptable to identify the content of utterances produced by different individuals, who have different vocal apparatus, different accents and prosodic idiosyncrasies, which results in the same linguistic target having different acoustic realisations across speakers. Beyond coping with natural inter-talker variation, listeners with an intact auditory and language system are readily able to understand speech under a wide variety of sub-optimal listening conditions. For example, we can understand speech transmitted over a poor mobile phone connection or in the presence of loud background noises and echoes, or even speech that has been artificially manipulated to reduce its level of acoustical detail. How the brain is able to make sense of such degraded and variable signals is a critical question for our understanding of the mechanisms of speech perception. more >
Yet more evidence for questionable research practices in original studies of Reproducibility Project: Psychology
May 03, 2016
A recent publication in Science claims that only around 40% of psychological findings are replicable, based on 100 replication attempts in the Reproducibility Project Psychology (Open Science Collaboration, 2015). A few months later, a critical commentary in the same journal made all sorts of claims, including that the surprisingly low 40% replication success rate is due to replications having been unfaithful to the original studies’ methods (Gilbert et al., 2016). A little while later, Richard Kunert published an article in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review re-analysing the data by the 100 replication teams (Kunert, 2016). He found evidence for questionable research practices being at the heart of failures to replicate, rather than the unfaithfulness of replications to original methods. more >
Does copying your partner's language make them like you?
Apr 18, 2016
A quick internet search for flirt tips teaches us that aligning your behavior with the behavior of the person you like (i.e. whenever they cross their arms, you cross your arms; whenever they touch their head, you touch your head) increases the chance that this person will like you back. A similar idea has also been proposed in language research: a speaker's (desired) relationship with their conversation partner would influence how much they align their linguistic choices with this partner. In a new study published in PLoS ONE, we tested this hypothesis. more >
Neurobiology of Language

What is the neurobiological infrastructure for the uniquely human capacity for language? The focus of the Neurobiology of Language Department is on the study of language production, language comprehension, and language acquisition from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. Read more...

Director: Peter Hagoort

Secretary: Carolin Lorenz


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