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New post-doc: Geertje van Bergen
Jan 16, 2015
This wordle contains the top 100 of most frequently used words in spoken Dutch, 20 of which fall into the category of discourse markers (e.g., ja, maar, uh, wel, ook). Discourse markers are linguistic elements that do not have any propositional meaning, but mark the relation between an utterance and the prior context. more >
Neural evidence for the role of shared space in online comprehension of spatial demonstratives
Jan 05, 2015
A fundamental property of language is that it allows us to refer to the things around us, for instance by using spatial demonstratives such as this and that in English. In a recent paper published in Cognition, David Peeters and colleagues present two ERP experiments that were carried out to investigate the neural mechanisms involved in the comprehension of such demonstrative terms in a visual everyday context. more >
New post-doc: Monique Flecken
Dec 23, 2014
People who speak different languages may talk differently about a situation. This is the case because the concepts encoded in the grammar and the lexicon of a given language may make specific things more salient than others. Do people also perceive and process situations differently, before and while speaking, and while not speaking about them? What happens when you learn an additional language with a grammar that is different from your native language? more >
Spinoza prize laureates concerned about planned NWO reorganization
Dec 12, 2014
In a letter to the Dutch Association of Universities (VSNU), 69 Spinoza prize laureates have expressed their concerns about the planned reorganization of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) described in Wetenschapsvisie 2025. more >
Cerebral coherence between communicators marks the emergence of meaning
Dec 09, 2014
When we interact with another person, we consider what we mutually know. A new study suggests this knowledge is continuously and simultaneously adjusted in our minds as the interaction unfolds. more >
Nodes and networks in the neural architecture for language
Nov 20, 2014
In a recent paper in Current Opinion in Neurobiology Peter Hagoort presented his view on the neural architecture of the human language system. more >
New post-doc: Zheng Ye
Nov 10, 2014
Temporal connectives such as ‘before’ and ‘after’ give us the freedom to describe a sequence of events in different orders. more >
PhD project: Bohan Dai
Oct 21, 2014
In a multi-speaker context, humans have the ability to recognize and follow an individual speaker while ignoring other speakers and background noise. Listeners can even do this when the target speech is presented together with other sounds that are very similar, or the when target sound is more difficult to identify than other heard sounds. This remarkable human ability – the so called "cocktail party effect"– has been studied for over half a century. more >
What happens in the brain when your tongue twists?
Oct 07, 2014
Producing language is one of the most common actions we perform. Like most actions, when we speak we rarely make mistakes, yet sometimes we produce speech errors such as saying the wrong word or mixing up the sounds in words. How do we monitor ourselves to detect when such errors occur? more >
New PhD students and post-docs starting in the NBL lab
Sep 30, 2014
From autumn 2014 Daniel Sharoh and Bohan Dai will be working on their PhD projects and Monique Flecken and Geertje van Bergen will join our lab to execute their VENI projects. Kirsten Weber will come back to the lab as a post-doc. more >
Looking back on SNL2014
Sep 09, 2014
A week ago, the Society for Neurobiology of Language conference 2014 took place in Amsterdam. Today we look back on the conference by means of interviews with researchers who participated. more >
SNL2014 day 3: What is 'Neurobiology of Language' anyway?
Sep 08, 2014
On the third day of the Society for Neurobiology of Language a debate titled: “what is ‘neurobiology of language’ anyway?” was on the program. At first glance, this seems a strange question, given that the researchers that were present have committed their lives to exactly this field of research. Does this mean that they actually don’t have a clue what it is all about? more >
SNL2014 day 3: Michael Tomasello about the evolution of communication
Sep 08, 2014
Michael Tomasello is a developmental psychologist and director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. He researches differences between human and primate communication. In his lecture at the Society for Neurobiology of Language conference in Amsterdam, he argued that at an early stage of development, children already acquire communicative skills that can never be learned by primates. more >
SNL2014 day 2: Constance Scharff on songbirds
Sep 07, 2014
People are not the only animals that communicate through language. On the second day of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language Conference, professor Constance Scharff (Freie Universität Berlin) gave a lecture in which she discussed the similarities between the human language system and that of the zebra finch, a songbird, to understand more about the relationship between language and the brain. more >
SNL2014 day 2: Pascal Fries’ Fairy Tale
Sep 01, 2014
Pascal Fries has an almost mythological status at the Donders institute. He worked there from 2001 to 2009 and then moved to Franfurt to start his own research center, the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience (in cooperation with the Max Planck Society). Many stories exist about him: that he already became a professor at the age of 30 (not completely true, it 'only' happened when he was 36), that he only published in the best scientific journals (true) and that he is a genius, brilliant, a miracle child. more >
Arjen Stolk defends PhD thesis
Sep 01, 2014
On september 2nd 2014, Arjen Stolk will defend his PhD thesis titled 'On the generation of shared symbols'. more >
SNL2014 day 1: Pim Levelt on the 'sleeping beauties' of psycholinguistics
Aug 28, 2014
The Society for the Neurobiology of Language meeting held at the 'Beurs van Berlage' in Amsterdam from August 27-29 was opened yesterday with a keynote lecture by the Netherlands' most famous psycholinguist: Pim Levelt. more >
SNL 2014 in Amsterdam starts today!
Aug 27, 2014
Today is the first day of the sixth annual Society for the Neurobiology of Language conference, this year held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, partly organized by our Neurobiology of Language department. You can follow the meeting on Twitter via @SNLmtg or hashtag #snlmtg2014 and we will provide you with blog posts live from the conference. more >
VENI grants awarded to NBL alumni
Aug 13, 2014
In addition to the VENI grant that has been awarded to current NBL lab member Tineke Snijders, two NBL alumni obtained a prestigious Veni grant from the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) as well: Caroline Junge and Tessa van Leeuwen. more >
The Society for the Neurobiology of Language is coming to Amsterdam
Aug 08, 2014
The annual meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language is the largest and most important meeting for researchers with an interest in the neural underpinnings of human language. This year's meeting features a number of important contributions from members of the MPI. more >
VENI grant awarded to Tineke Snijders
Jul 29, 2014
How do babies make sense of all the sounds they hear? Before they are able to link sound to meaning, they need to learn the locations of word boundaries in continuous speech. more >
Symposium: Towards a neuroscience of mutual understanding
Jul 21, 2014
On September 1, 2014 Arjen Stolk, Peter Hagoort and Ivan Toni organize a symposium on mechanisms of mutual understanding. more >
Roel Willems and Franziska Hartung visit the new MPI in Frankfurt
Jul 09, 2014
Why do people perceive music and literature as varying in their beauty based on factors such as culture, society, historical period and individual taste? In 2012 the new Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics has been founded to answer questions regarding how humans perceive, experience and evaluate aesthetics. more >
The role of beat gesture and pitch accent in semantic processing
Jun 30, 2014
In face-to-face communication, speakers often emphasize information with verbal (e.g., pitch accent, clefts) and nonverbal cues (e.g., hand gestures, facial expressions). The present study investigated how listeners integrate pitch accent and beat gesture (i.e., small baton-like hand movements produced along with the rhythmical pulsation of speech) to comprehend a message. more >
The influence of communicative context on syntactic priming
Jun 02, 2014
If I describe a scene by saying 'the mistress is kissed by the man' (using a sentence in the passive voice) you are more likely to describe the following event with another passive sentence, like 'the man is hit by his wife', rather than an active sentence such as 'the wife hits her husband'. more >
Irina Simanova defends PhD on May 12
May 09, 2014
Throughout human history, people have always been intrigued by the idea of understanding the thoughts of others without using speech or signs. In the 19th and 20th century mind reading was even studied by empirical psychologists. While this early work remained in the realm of pseudoscience, the idea has not become less attractive. Can humans acquire the ability to read minds? more >
Synchronization of speech and gesture
May 05, 2014
Language and action systems are highly interlinked. A critical piece of evidence is that speech and its accompanying gestures are well synchronized temporally. The underlying mechanism responsible for the synchronization is still under debate. more >
MPI scientific retreat
Apr 14, 2014
From March 31st until April 2nd 2014, six members of the Neurobiology of Language department attended the MPI retreat in Münster. At this annual retreat, representatives of the different MPI departments join forces to think about the future of the institute. more >
PhD project: Alina Lartseva
Apr 07, 2014
About 1 in 100 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some of these children will need intensive support and care for their whole life, and some of them will learn how to overcome their difficulties, and will be able to study, work, live independently. Despite its relatively high prevalence, we still know very little about what causes autism, what cognitive functions are impaired or how we can treat it. more >
The influence of communicative intent on the kinematics of pointing gestures
Mar 21, 2014
In everyday communication, people not only use speech but also hand gestures to convey information. One intriguing question in gesture research has been why gestures take the specific form they do. 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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