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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 >
New Post-Doc: Atsuko Takashima
Mar 22, 2016
Multiple levels of processes are taking place in the brain when we describe a situation out aloud. Processing of visual inputs, retrieval of appropriate nouns and verbs to illustrate the scene, putting words in a correct syntactic structure together with the functional words, and translate the constructed sentence to a motoric output. On the brain level, these include processing of perception, retrieval of information from memory, keeping online words to be constructed in the working memory buffer, selection of appropriate syntax, and adequate motor output. In the current project, we aim to investigate the brain structures that are involved in sentence production, especially differences in the brain activation level that is dependent on 1) the sentence complexity and 2) the presence/absence of semantic feature to the critical verb. more >
New Post-Doc: Yingying Tan
Mar 08, 2016
In psycholinguistic research, one of the major questions concerns the nature of the memory mechanisms underlying sentence processing. A number of previous works have highlighted the important role that working memory (WM) and executive control play in language processing. However, no final conclusion about the nature of this relationship has been reached, such as whether there is a unitary WM system or one that contains multiple components and if there are multiple components, whether there are different memory capacities (e.g. phonological, semantic, syntactic) specific to language processing, or whether, instead, individual differences in language processing derive from variation in executive control ability or linguistic experience. more >
People tailor their hand gestures to the needs of their addressee
Feb 25, 2016
Do people shape their actions as a function of their intentions? In our new paper, published in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, we describe the results of two experiments in which we had participants make pointing gestures for an addressee in an interactive set-up. During the experiments we recorded the exact kinematic properties of their gestures by a sensor that was placed on their index finger. We also analyzed their brain activity while they were planning the gestures, by means of EEG. more >
It’s easier to learn words that sound like what they mean
Feb 11, 2016
Over a lifetime, we learn tens of thousands of words. What makes some words easier to learn than others? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics taught Japanese words to Dutch students and found that ideophones —words that sound like what they mean— are easier to learn than regular words. This may be due to universally available associations between sound and meaning. more >
Difficult grammar affects music experience
Feb 03, 2016
Listening to music while reading affects how you hear the music. Language scientists and neuroscientists from Radboud University and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics published this finding in Royal Society Open Science. more >
Avatars for language science: How virtual reality enables more realistic experiments
Jan 27, 2016
Avatars are all around us: they represent real people online and colonise new worlds in the movies. In science, their role has been more limited. But avatars can be extremely useful in linguistics, new research shows. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics use virtual avatars to investigate how real people behave in interaction. The method makes it possible to study with great precision how people adjust to each other in conversation. more >
New PhD: Rene Terporten
Jan 26, 2016
Language is an incredible flexible instrument that enables us to generate infinite different expressions from a finite set of linguistic units. This flexibility becomes emphasized when different contexts influence the meaning of a context embedded expression. My project aims to contribute to a general understanding of this flexibility in language processing, by investigating the role of underlying brain network dynamics of a language system, as context varies. more >
"Right now, Sophie *swims in the pool?!" Temporal information is processed different from semantic and morpho-syntactic relations
Jan 12, 2016
When we tell others about events or actions taking place, we usually also express when they occurred. In English, speakers must specify whether an action is currently in progress (using the -ing marker such as in "Sophie is swimming") or not. This marker of grammatical aspect should be in 'agreement' with any preceding temporal information. In the example above, the temporal adverbial 'right now' sets the stage for an event which is currently ongoing, and is thus in disagreement with the aspectually unmarked form 'swims', which has a different temporal interpretation. more >
Broca’s Area processes both language and music at the same time
Nov 09, 2015
When you read a book and listen to music, the brain doesn’t keep these two tasks nicely separated. A new study shows there is an area in the brain which is busy with both at the same time: Broca’s area. This area has been long associated with language. That it is also involved in music processing may tell us more about what music and language share. more >
New PhD: Valeria Mongelli
Oct 26, 2015
Language and consciousness are two closely interrelated topics. Nowadays, it is widely accepted that some linguistic processes can occur in the absence of consciousness. However, the limits of unconscious language processing are still a largely debated issue. more >
Review Paper: Iconicity in the lab
Sep 29, 2015
This article is a review paper about experimental research on sound-symbolism from the last few years. The paper is a nice one-stop shop for almost everything you've ever wanted to know about sound-symbolism research but were too afraid to ask! more >
David Peeters defends PhD thesis on Sept. 14th!
Sep 10, 2015
One of the most important functions of language is that it allows us to refer to the things in the world around us. We continuously do so, for instance by using spatial demonstratives in combination with a perfectly timed manual pointing gesture (“look at that guy!”). more >
Production – perception interactions
Aug 13, 2015
It is well established that speech production and perception interact in intricate ways. Not only is speech perception necessary for speech production acquisition – deaf children don’t learn how to speak – but research in recent years has shown that perception and production interact also in adults’ speech. In our current study in the Proceedings of the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, we investigated one type of long-term interaction: if production and perception interact on a regular basis, one would expect, over time, individual differences to correlate in these domains. more >
How language influences our perception
Jul 08, 2015
How does language change what we see? In our new paper, published in the open-access journal Neuroscience of Consciousness, we used an inventive way to investigate at which level of processing linguistic material modulates visual perception. more >
Ideophones in Japanese modulate the P2 and late positive complex responses
Jul 06, 2015
This article is about the interaction between sound-symbolism and sensory processing. Sound-symbolism is the non-arbitrary link between sound and meaning. In Dutch and other European languages, this only covers onomatopoeia, but many other languages and language families around the world have lots of sound-symbolic words to describe lots of different things (e.g. the Japanese word nurunuru, which means "slimy"). These words are known as ideophones. more >
Neural overlap in processing music and speech: a commentary
Jun 30, 2015
When you listen to some music and when you read a book, does your brain use the same resources? This question goes to the heart of how the brain is organized – does it make a difference between cognitive domains like music and language? In a new commentary Richard Kunert highlights a successful approach which helps to answer this question. more >
Everything you always wanted to know about our research
Jun 24, 2015
We will open our doors to everyone interested during the Open Day on Saturday June 27. We have also prepared a short film about the basic questions motivating our work: A Celebration of Language. On top of that, we have just published our Research Report, in which we detail our research highlights over the past two years. more >
Fast oscillatory dynamics during language comprehension
Jun 23, 2015
Neural oscillations play an important role in the dynamic formation of functional networks in the brain. Such networks are important for communication between brain regions and for segregating different types of information (at different frequencies) being sent from region to region within the brain. Language processing involves multiple types of information (e.g., syntactic, semantic, phonological) represented at various different levels and likely involves the representation and exchange of information within such frequency-specific functional networks. In a recent article in a special issue of the journal Brain and Language on Electrophysiology of Language we reviewed the literature on beta and gamma frequency oscillatory dynamics found during language comprehension beyond the level of processing single words (sentence-level processing and beyond). more >
New post-doc: David Peeters
Jun 09, 2015
Advances in technology constantly change the ways in which we can investigate the neurobiological underpinnings of language. In my post-doc project I will make use of virtual reality (VR) to study our linguistic and communicative capacities in rich, visual contexts. more >
Princess Laurentien to open new wing of Max Planck Institute
May 27, 2015
The new wing of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, due to be opened by Princess Laurentien on 10 June, enables the Institute to house all the main disciplines of the language sciences under the same roof. The wing endorses the unique multidisciplinary position held by this institute in the area of language research. more >
Vidi Grants Awarded to Two NBL Researchers!
May 20, 2015
Drs. Jan-Mathijs Schoffelen and Roel Willems have been awarded the prestigious Vidi grant. The grant consists of maximum 800,000 EUR over the course of 5 years, which will enable them to set up their own research team to pursue their research interests. more >
New Publication: A predictive coding framework for rapid neural dynamics during sentence-level language comprehension
May 12, 2015
Predictive coding implementations of Bayesian hierarchical inference within cortical hierarchies have been steadily growing in popularity within the cognitive neuroscience community over the last decade or so. At the same time, work in electrophysiology has related high frequency oscillatory activity (typically in the gamma frequency range) to the feedforward, and low frequency oscillatory activity (typically in the beta or alpha frequency ranges) to the feedback flow of information within and between cortical hierarchies. This has led to the development of the so called ‘canonical microcircuit’ and the suggestion that it might be replicated throughout the cortex and constitute one general form of information processing in the brain. more >
From commonsense to science, and back
Apr 14, 2015
Commonsense cognitive concepts (CCCs) are the concepts used in daily life to explain, predict and interpret behaviour. CCCs are also used to convey neuroscientific results, not only to wider audiences but also to the scientific inner circle. In a recent article, Prof. Marc Slors from the Philosophy of Mind department of the RU Nijmegen and Jolien Francken show that translations from CCCs to brain activity, and from brain data to CCCs are made in implicit, loose and unsystematic ways. more >
New post-doc: Kirsten Weber
Mar 18, 2015
We generally do not process words in isolation but in rich contexts, such as sentences and larger discourse. From these contexts we acquire constraints and biases that shape our quick and efficient language processing and at the same time lead to ambiguities and occasionally misinterpretations. For example, we would expect the sentence fragment "the girl gave" to finish as "a flower to the boy" and not as "the boy a flower ," although both are possible. more >
PhD project: Daniel Sharoh
Mar 03, 2015
Language processing is facilitated by complex, dynamic neural networks and involves interactions among populations of neurons spanning vast areas of cerebral real estate. Previous work has shown which brain areas are implicated in word and sentence processing, and which regions show greater sensitivity to increased semantic, syntactic or phonological demands. But as no man is an island, no functional brain region acts in isolation. more >
New post-doc: Anne Kösem
Feb 20, 2015
How does the brain segment the continuous speech signal into meaningful words and syllables? A recent model proposes that speech parsing results from the temporal alignment of neural oscillations to the rhythmic structure of speech, by a process called neural entrainment. more >
Auditory brain activity during speech imitation
Feb 04, 2015
Although speech production and speech perception have traditionally been investigated separately, in recent decades it has become clear that production and perception interact in complex ways. For example, the sound of our own speech provides useful feedback to our speech production.An important finding is the reduction of the auditory cortical response to one’s own (self-produced) speech, compared to externally generated speech. more >
Peter Hagoort on the future of linguistics
Feb 02, 2015
At the 47th annual meeting of the European Linguistics Society (Societas Linguistica Europaea), Peter Hagoort was a plenary speaker during a round table discussion about the future of linguistics: “Quo Vadis Linguistics in the 21st century”. Below you can read a summary of his contribution to the discussion: "Linguistics quo vadis? An outsider perspective" more >
The Behavioral and Neural Effects of Language on Motion Perception
Jan 21, 2015
Perception does not function as an isolated module but is tightly linked with other cognitive functions, for example the language faculty. 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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