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Research mission

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. This includes using neuroimaging, behavioural and Virtual Reality techniques to investigate the language system and its neural underpinnings. Research facilities at the MPI include a high-density EEG lab, a Virtual Reality lab, and several behavioural labs. With part of the department stationed at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, we also have access to a whole-head 275 channel MEG system, MRI-scanners at 1.5, 3 and 7 Tesla, a TMS-lab, and several other EEG labs.


The research of the NBL department is centered on two major themes and its daily research activities are organized in the form of 13 research projects.

The two major themes are Unification and Language in Action

The two major themes are Unification and Language in Action. The Unification theme seeks to work out the details of the Memory, Unification and Control (MUC) framework that guides part of our research programme. Crucial questions are:  How are different sources of information which are retrieved from memory or provided by sensory input unified with language into an interpretation (comprehension) or message (production) beyond the single word level? Which neural networks are recruited for these unification operations? To what degree are these shared between production and comprehension, and what is the nature of their dynamic interplay with memory components, such as the mental lexicon or episodic memory of the prior discourse? The theme Language in Action is grounded in the idea that language is not just a bunch of sentences waiting to be coded or decoded. It helps us coordinate with others to get things done or share experiences, it supports the development and maintenance of social relationships and culture, and it helps us to think about the world. In this theme, we examine the neural and cognitive architecture of the language system when embedded in richer social, physical, or discourse contexts than typically studied in the cognitive neuroscience lab. Do classic findings on linguistic coding and decoding scale up in situations where language is used for a purpose? What neural and cognitive architecture supports context-dependent aspects of language use, such as inferences about the speaker and his or her state of mind? In what way does the core neural machinery studied in the Unification project interact with other brain systems, such as those involved in vision, motor behavior, attention, affective evaluation, the pursuit of goals, and episodic memory of prior discourse?

The NBL department is involved in a series of large-scale collaborative projects

The current research portfolio of the department contains a series of 13 projects addressing key issues for our understanding of the language system as instantiated in the human brain. The majority of these projects fall within the scope of the two themes described above. In addition, the NBL department is involved in a series of large-scale collaborative projects, including the Cognomics project (together with the MPI L&G department., the Genetics department of UMC St Radboud, and DCCN) that aims at linking genes, brain and cognition, and the FOCOM project (with Wageningen University and industrial partners) on the interaction between food and cognition. The research projects are carried out by staff and PhD students from 15 different countries.

Projects:
Neuroanatomy of language
MOUS (Mother of all Unification Studies)
Neurocomputational models of language
Language Brain-Computer Interface
Neuropragmatics
Information Structure
The enlanguaged brain
Language and gesture
Dialogue
Language and emotion
Monitoring
Acquisition
Simulation    
The sound of music

Last checked 2016-10-19 by Jolien Francken
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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