Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Understanding mind and brain

100,000,000,000 neurons with 100,000 kilometers of con­nections between them, with a storage capacity exceeding that of a supercomputer. That's the amazing human brain!

Recent PublicationsNeuroimaging techniques help us understand how all these inconceivable numbers of neurons cooperate to per­ceive, represent and act on the world. The brain operates as an orchestra without a conductor. To be able to produce the right cognitive melody, different neural ‘players' must coordinate their activities, each providing the right contribution at exactly the right time. At the Donders Institute we work on solving this puzzle. How is the brain able to achieve such a feat - apparently without central coordination?

Brain cognition and behaviour

The Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour is a world-class research centre devoted to understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of human cognition and behavior in health and disease. The Institute is home to more than 600 researchers from 35 countries who share the common goal of contributing to the advancement of the brain-, cognitive- and behavioral sciences through investigator-driven research, and improving health, education and technology by applying advances in this field. The Institute’s mission includes conducting interdisciplinary research of excellence at the unique interface between genetic, molecular and cellular processes at one end and computational, system-level neuroscience with cognitive and behavioral analysis at the other end. Within this range we focus on four research themes, as shown at the right.

Theme 1: Language and communication
Research in this theme aims to understand the complexity of human language faculty and its development at the behavioural, cognitive, and neural levels in healthy individuals as well as in populations with dysfunction in linguistic and communication skills. To do so it adopts a multilevel approach that is from genes to neurons, brain, cognition, interaction, and society. This broad approach to language also forms the basis in understanding language breakdowns as in acquired or developmental language disorders and to devise clinical applications and solutions.

Theme 2: Perception, Action and Decision-making
This theme investigates the neural and cognitive mechanisms that allow us to perceive the world, to translate these sensations into action plans, and to decide how to enact these plans. At the level of perception and action, researchers examine how sensory processing and motor performance operate and interrelate. At the level of regulation, researchers study how choice options are selected, and subsequently controlled, on the basis of cognitive, motivational, and affective factors. At the level of social interaction, researchers study how these processes are implemented when engaged with other agents.

Theme 3: Development and lifelong plasticity
This theme focuses on plasticity, referring to the capacity to continuously alter neural structure and function in response to experience or injury. This capacity is genetically co-determined driven by conserved preprogrammed biological events as well as individual genetic and environmental factors, and can take place at the level of molecules up to the organism and an entire population.

Theme 4: Natural computing and Neurotechnology

This theme integrates theoretical, computational, experimental, and technological research at the Donders Institute and has as its scientific mission to uncover fundamental mechanisms of brain functions. This common mission is realized via two distinct but complementary research lines: “Natural Computing” and “Neurotechnology”.