Netwerk in een hoofd
Netwerk in een hoofd

The nature of the mental lexicon

How to bridge neurobiology and psycholinguistic theory by computational modelling?
1 November 2017 until 31 July 2023
Project member(s)
Dr S.L. Frank (Stefan) , Dr L. Ambrogioni (Luca) , Dr L.F.M. ten Bosch (Louis) , Prof. M.T.C. Ernestus (Mirjam) , Dr H. Fitz (Hartmut) , Prof. M.A.J. van Gerven (Marcel) , Dr U. Güçlü (Umut) , Prof. P. Hagoort (Peter) , Samira Abnar (ILLC, UvA) , Prof Rens Bod (ILLC, UvA) , Dr Raquel Fernández (ILLC, UvA) , Danny Merkx , Karl Magnus Petersson (MPI) , Alessio Quaresima (MPI) , Jakub Szymanik (ILLC, UvA) , Jelle Zuidema (ILLC , UvA) , Roel Willems
Project type

This project is "Big Question 1" of the "Language in Interaction", a consortium that was awarded a very substantial subsidy for 10 years within the Gravitation programme of NWO.

Big Question 1 addresses how to use computational modelling to link levels of description, from neurons to cognition and behaviour, in understanding the language system. Focus is on the mental lexicon and the aim is to characterize its structure in a way that is precise and meaningful in neurobiological and (psycho)linguistic terms. The overarching goal is to devise causal/explanatory models of the mental lexicon that can explain neural and behavioural data. This will significantly deepen our understanding of the neural, cognitive, and functional properties of the mental lexicon, lexical access, and lexical acquisition.

The BQ1 team takes advantage of recent progress in the understanding of modelling realistic neural networks, improvements in neuroimaging techniques and data analysis, and developments in accounting for the semantic, syntactic and phonological properties of words and other items stored in the mental lexicon. Using one common notation ‒high-dimensional numerical vectors‒ neurobiological and computational (psycho)linguistic models of the mental lexicon are integrated and methods are developed for comparing model predictions to large-scale neuroimaging data.

Infographic The nature of the mental lexicon

Visit the external project page on the Language Interaction website


NWO Gravitation Programme


  • Donders institute 
  • Max Planck Institute 
  • ILLC (UvA)

Contact information