Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Theme 1: Language and Communication

Neurobiology of Language

Language skills such as speaking and listening are among the most complex systems that have developed in human evolution. Together with the derived capacities to read and write, they constitute one of the pillars of the complex social organization of modern society. The aim of the research group “Neurobiology of Language” is to understand the cognitive and neural organization of human language skills.

The benefits for society are the application of fundamental research on the neural basis of language for treatment of aphasia, dyslexia, and for improving language teaching. The research of our group takes general models of the functional architecture of language skills as its starting point. For instance, a blueprint of the human listener specifies which knowledge sources are accessed during listening and how they are exploited in real time to extract the message from the signal. Since language comprehension is about mapping sound/script onto meaning, the listener has to infer the speaker’s message from the sound waves that hit the ears (or the visual patterns that meet the eyes). These sound waves allow the listener to recognize the words and retrieve their information from long-term memory.

Online lecture Peter Hagoort (2020): The Core and Beyond In The Language-Ready Brain

The brain stores information on about 60.000 words of one’s native language. All this information is retrieved in a split second. A listener can easily recognize 3 - 4 words per second. The speed of language processing is one of its most remarkable aspects. However, as a listener we hardly ever hear words in isolation. In most cases words are produced in the context of other words. How does the brain create a coherent interpretation on the basis of the single word information retrieved from memory?

A major research focus of this research group is on answering the question: How does the brain solve the binding problem for language? The research program focuses on the binding of single word information into multi-word utterances. Not only within-language binding of syntactic and semantic information is studied, but also the binding of information from other modalities, such as gestures and visual scenes, into a coherent interpretation of the utterance.

Name: Tildie Stijns
Telephone: 024-3610651
Fax: 024-3610652
Visiting address: Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging
Kapittelweg 29
6525 EN Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Postal address: Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging
P.O. Box 9101
6500 HB Nijmegen
The Netherlands


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Theme 1:
Language and Communication

Research Group
Neurobiology of Language

Principal Investigator
Prof. Peter Hagoort

Group members

Associate PI's
Dr. Jan-Mathijs Schoffelen

Senior Researchers
Dr. Tineke Snijders
Dr. Stephanie Forkel

Postdoctoral Researchers
Dr. Jana Basnakova
Dr. Francesca Carota
Dr. Ashley Lewis
Dr. Atsuko Takashima
Dr. Ambra Ferrari

Dr. Müge Özker Sertel
Daniel Sharoh

PhD Students
Laura Giglio
Margot Mangnus
Giulio Severijnen

MSc and BSc Students
Jessica (Xuanyi) Chen
Ningjing Cui

Research Assistants
Lukas Kunz
Yunzhi Luo