At the Neurobiology of Language Department, our research covers various themes. To find out more about these overarching themes and associated projects, click on the relevant sections below. Here you will also find contact information for the teams of researchers, postdocs, and PhD students.

Beyond words

Language processing is about more than just producing and understanding single words. A hallmark of the human capacity for language is that we can combine words in endless new ways. This is what has been referred to as Unification in the overall Memory, Unification and Control (MUC) framework, which guides part of our research programme.

Crucial questions here are:

  • How are different sources of linguistic and extra-linguistic information, which are retrieved from memory or provided by sensory input, combined to generate an interpretation (comprehension) or message (production) beyond the single word level?
  • Which neural networks are recruited for these unification operations?
  • To what extent 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?

An important large scale, open data project in this theme is the MOUS (Mother Of all Unification Studies) project.

Research team

Sophie Arana (PhD)
Cas Coopmans (PhD)
Laura Giglio (PhD)
Peter Hagoort (Director)
Fenna Poletiek (Guest researcher)
Jan-Mathijs Schoffelen (Guest researcher)
Hatice Zora (Staff researcher)
Ambra Ferrari (Staff researcher)
Francesca Carota (Staff researcher)
Natalia Levshina (Staff researcher)



Neurocomputational models of language

Computational modelling has attempted to reverse-engineer the language system from experimental data (e.g., behavioural, neuroimaging, etc.). In this research group, we take a novel approach to language modelling.

Instead of fitting cognitive models to data, we model key characteristics of the neurobiological system that generates the data: the human brain.

Through large-scale network simulations, we investigate which neurophysiological features are crucial for supporting linguistic computations and memory. This causal-modelling approach aims to explain the core aspects of the human capacity for language from neurobiological principles.

Research team

Renato Duarte (Guest researcher)
Hartmut Fitz (Staff researcher)
Peter Hagoort (Director)
Karl Magnus Petersson (Senior Investigator)
Alessio Quaresima (PhD)



Neural architecture

Ultimately, the human capacity for language is dependent on basic features of brain anatomy and physiology. As part of this overarching theme, we study the interaction of neuro-pharmacological agents with basic language processes, the laminar organisation of the neocortex as a nexus for the bottom-up and top-down processing of language-relevant information, and intrinsic brain oscillations as a mechanism for sampling and segmenting speech and language input and for determining dynamic network configurations. In addition, subcortical and cerebellar structure contributions are also a focus of our research.

Research team

Ashley Lewis (Staff researcher)
David Norris (External member MPG)
Markus Ostarek (Guest researcher)
Daniel Sharoh (PhD)
Yingying Tan (Guest researcher)
Stephanie Forkel (Guest researcher)
Atsuko Takashima (LiI grant, staff researcher)



The enlanguaged brain

Language interacts with and influences other cognitive functions, such as perception, action, memory, and emotions. Within this theme, we investigate the consequences of language for other central aspects of the human mind.

Research team

Monique Flecken (Senior Investigator)
Micha Heilbron (PhD)
Guillermo Montero-Melis (Staff researcher)
Julia Misersky (PhD)
Ksenija Slivac (PhD)



Beyond Language

The Beyond Language theme is grounded in the idea that language is not just a bunch of sentences waiting to be coded or decoded. Language 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 and refer to the external and internal 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 those typically studied in the cognitive neuroscience lab. Studies on the interaction between language and gesture, on pragmatic inferencing, in rich Virtual Reality environments approaching the complexity of the real world, are examples of research within this theme.

Research team

Eleanor Huizeling (Staff researcher)
Mante Nieuwland (Senior Investigator)
David Peeters (Guest researcher)
Rowan Sommers (PhD)





More information about our department’s and director’s research results and activities can be found on the News page and on, our own departmental website (available in Dutch and English).

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