Three Vici Grants awarded for advancements in brain research, and language technologies

Three scientists from the Donders Institute have been awarded Vici research grants by the Dutch Research Organisation (NWO). Floris de Lange, Marius Peelen, and Marc Dingemanse will use these grants for research within their respective domains. The Vici grant allows scientists to lead investigations and establish their own research groups over the course of the next five years. This year, NWO is awarding a total of 35 Vici grants, and we are proud to acknowledge the contributions of our three recipients.

Reconstructing the predictive architecture of the mind and brain by Floris de Lange

Our brain makes predictions about the future based on what it knows. However, what the brain actually predicts has remained largely unclear. This requires examining prediction in the real world, which is much more complex than typical lab experiments. This research will use new tools from artificial intelligence to examine how our brain makes predictions in real-life situations, how our brain is wired to do this, and how this affects our behavior, like what sparks our curiosity. By understanding this, we hope to achieve a richer understanding of how our brain works in naturalistic conditions.

Seeing and thinking: interplay between externally and internally generated neural representations by Marius Peelen

Many people think in pictures. Can this occur together with the processing of visual information? By using neuroimaging methods, behavioral experiments, and a bicycle simulator, the researchers will reveal how the brain combines seeing and visual thinking, how people differ in this ability, and why we it can be difficult to rapidly switch between seeing and thinking, for example as a result of aging.

Futures of Language by Mark Dingemanse

Language is possibly humanity’s greatest invention, and likely the most adaptable. This project studies language as it adapts to major sociotechnical transitions. We start from the global linguistic diversity that represents humanity’s many parallel presents and futures: a possibility space of artisanal language technologies. We investigate how interactive interfaces exploit this substrate, some of them slick and coercive, others more rigid and clunky: the future is now, and it is in need of fundamental scrutiny. And we theorize and imagine futures of convivial language technology in which human agency and linguistic diversity are not curbed, but preserved and enhanced.

For more information about the other two Vici grants that were received by Radboud University, read the press release.