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

Social Educational Neuroscience (SENSe) & Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and BehaviourThe group Social Educational Neuroscience (SENSe) & Artificial Intelligence (AI) focuses on how we interact with other human beings and exploit current and explore missing knowledge to foster educational learning. Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence are integrated to understand, model, and foster learning. Our theoretical starting position is that our brain is a prediction machine. We investigate the way the brain exploits predictions based on an internal model to make sense of incoming signals and using them to guide perception, thought, learning, and action.

The basic research is organized in two lines; social interaction and education. The social line includes communication (i.e., how do we communicate and/or recognize intentions through actions), and social categorization (i.e., how do we make predictions on the basis of knowledge about a specific individual or about the social group that the individual is a member). The education line focuses on understanding education and learning based on internal models, with a particular focus on language. For example, how predictions within the first language (i.e., how semantic priming affects the perception of faces), and in learning a second language (i.e., how similarities at an orthographic, phonological and semantic level), influence the learning of a language.

Towards this end, we utilize a cognitive neuroscience approach; measuring on-line, dynamic eye and hand movements as well as accompanying brain activation (e.g., employing MEG, fMRI, TMS). Based on the neuroscience measurements, we build computational models to simulate the underlying processes. Lastly, we use the insights and models to foster social interaction and learning in (digital) educational tools. In this way, we attempt to bridge the full gap from fundamental scientific understanding to wider societal value.

Name: Harold Bekkering
Telephone: 024-3612632
Visiting address: Donders Centre for Cognition
Montessorilaan 3
6525 HR 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
Social Educational Neuroscience (SENSe) & Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Principal Investigator
Prof. Harold Bekkering
Co-leader Frank Leoné

Group members

Senior Researcher
Sybrine Bultena

Olympia Colizoli
Lieke van Lieshout

Lukas Ansteeg
Tess Bal
Peta Baxter
Randi Goertz
Josh Ring
James Trujillo

Master's Students
Marta Blasco Oliver 
Leonie Weindorf