Prof. I. Toni (Ivan)

Principal Investigator - Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
Professor - Cognitive Psychology

Prof. I. Toni (Ivan)
Visiting address

Kapittelweg 29

Postal address

Postbus 9101

My research is focused on the mechanisms supporting the integration of rules, percepts, and concepts into the sensorimotor processes that lead to overt behavior. I address this issue in healthy, paediatric, neurological, and psychiatric populations, using neurophysiological techniques, to understand the neural implementation of computational mechanisms supporting instrumental and communicative actions.
Concerning instrumental actions, I wish to understand the cognitive and cerebral structures that make goal-directed movements possible. This category of movements is the building block for fundamental human abilities like object prehension, tool use, and other complex actions. The major contribution of this research line has been to define how lateral occipito-temporal cortex, inferior parietal cortex, and premotor cortex structure an action plan on the basis of perceptual features. The findings suggest that perceptual knowledge influences sensorimotor processes by biasing movement selection at the earliest stages of planning, in contrast to existing models postulating temporal precedence of visuospatial over perceptual information processing.
Concerning communicative actions, I wish to understand how our actions can be used to modify mental states in other people. We postulate that communicative actions, even more so than instrumental actions, are organized from the earliest stages according to abstract conceptual knowledge, e.g. the inferred desires and beliefs of the addressee. The major contribution of this research line has been to define a neurophysiological mechanism for the selection of novel communicative actions. We have shown that communicative innovation relies on neuronal computations that are shared across generating and understanding novel shared symbols, operating over temporal scales independent from transient sensorimotor behavior, and dependent on the shared conceptualizations of a signal’s use.

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