Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control

Learning & Motivation (LAM) & Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

The Learning and Motivation group (LAM) aims to build and share knowledge about human learning and the importance of motivational drives to learn.

Our team consists of researchers and Bachelor and Master students in Psychology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cognitive Neuroscience, Biology, and the Educational Sciences. We actively connect our research to society by co-creating educational tools with partners, including conducting studies in the classroom together with colleagues from the educational sciences. Together, we attempt to bridge the gap between fundamental scientific understanding of learning and motivation and wider societal values, such as improving learning in the educational context and beyond.

Our research is organized around the topic of human learning. We work from the assumption that our brain is a prediction machine. We actively explore our world based on our prior knowledge. In multiple paradigms we explore how we learn from prediction errors. We also investigate motivational aspects of learning and the importance of curiosity for learning.  According to the self-determination theory learning takes place if the needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are served. Curiosity can be defined as intrinsically motivated information seeking and is an important driving force for learning and exploration. We are mostly curious about information that will help us to optimize our model of the world.

Name: Harold Bekkering
Telephone: 024-3612632
Visiting address: Donders Centre for Cognition
Thomas van Aquinostraat 4
6525 GD Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Postal address: Donders Centre for Cognition
P.O. Box 9104
6500 HE Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Key grants and prizes
  • NWO, TOP. 2012-17: How the integration of sensorimotor simulation and mentalizing allows for human action understanding (750k / 375k )
  • NWO – Brain-and-Cognition-Excellence. 2011-15: Motor simulation and cognitive control in joint action (750k / 375k)
  • NWO – Brain-and-Cognition-Societal Relevance. 2011-15: Understanding and improving the development of language skills in primary school children (500k / 250k)
  • NWO - VICI. 2006-11: Conceptual knowledge in goal-directed Action (1.25M / 1.25M)
  • EU, FP6, Integrated Project . 2004-10: Joint Action System Technology (6M / 2M)
Key publications
  • Newman-Norlund, R.D., van Schie, H.T., van Zuijlen, A.M., Bekkering, H. (2007). The mirror neuron system is more active during complementary compared with imitative action. Nature Neuroscience, 10(7), 817-8. > more
  • Ondobaka, S., de Lange, F.P., Newman-Norlund, R.D., Wiemers, M., & Bekkering, H. (2012). Interplay between action and movement intentions during social interaction. Psychological Science, 23(1), 30-5. > more
  • van Elk, M., van Schie, H.T., Hunnius, S., Vesper, C. & Bekkering, H. (2008). You’ll never crawl alone: Neurophysiological evidence for experience-dependent motor resonance in infancy. Neuroimage, 43(4), 808-14. > more
  • Adank P, Hagoort P, Bekkering H. (2010). Imitation improves language comprehension. Psychological Science, 1, 21(12), 1903-9. > more
  • Schie, van, H.T., Mars, R.B., Coles, M.G.H., & Bekkering, H. (2004). Modulation of activity in medial frontal and motor cortices during error observation. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 549-54. > more


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Research Theme 2:
Perception, Action and Decision-making

Research Group
Learning & Motivation (LAM) & Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Principal Investigator
Prof. Harold Bekkering

Assistant Professor
Olympia Colizoli
Lieke van Lieshout

Group members
Eefje Mittendorff (management assistant)
Nils Müller (project manager Living Lab)
Sybrine Bultena (Senior Researcher)

Randi Goertz
Zhaoqi (Claire) Zhang

Mats Abrahamse
Rick Hankel
Yibrán Pacheco Saez
Samantha Hamm
Julia Dicks
Marketa Mičková
Bart Lelie